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Methadone treatment provides the patient who is opioid dependent with medication, health, social, and rehabilitation services that relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce physiological cravings, and allow normalization of the body’s functions. Methadone treatment has been available for over 30 years and has been confirmed effective for opioid dependence in numerous scientific studies.

Moreover, in 1997, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Panel found the following concerning methadone treatment: “Of the various treatments available, methadone maintenance treatment, combined with attention to medical, psychiatric and socioeconomic issues, as well as drug counseling, has the highest probability of being effective.”

Methadone treatment programs are staffed by professionals with medical, clinical, and administrative expertise. Patients receive medication from a health professional. Patients routinely meet with a primary counselor (social worker, caseworker, or certified substance abuse counselor), attend clinic groups, and access medical and social services.

Methadone’s effectiveness, and the absence of any serious, long-term side effects from using it, have been demonstrated in numerous studies conducted over the past 30 years. Among the most commonly cited outcomes are:

  • Consumption of all illicit drugs declines to less than 40 percent of pretreatment levels during the first year and eventually reaches 15 percent of pre-treatment levels for patients who remain in treatment 2 years or more.

  • Crime is reduced substantially: For example, in the most detailed study of treatment outcomes to date, during the first 4 months of treatment, crime decreased from 237 crime days per year per 100 addicted persons during an average year of their addiction to 69 crime days per year per 100 patients, a reduction of more than 70 percent. This number declined further to only 14.5 crime days per year for patients in treatment 6 years or more.

  • Fewer individuals become infected with HIV: A study by Metzger, et al, 1993, showed that over a 3-year period, 5 percent of patients in methadone treatment became HIV positive (over and above those already positive at admission), while among a cohort of out-of-treatment addicts in the same neighborhood, 26 percent became HIV-positive (over and above those already positive at baseline).

  • Individual functioning improves, as evidenced in improved family and other social relation­ships, increased employment, improved parenting, etc., according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1994, and Lowinson, et al, 1992.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Medication Assisted Treatment for the 21st Century

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