An editorial in the March 8, 2000, edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association states that following the Scottish example and allowing primary care physicians to dispense methadone "can provide a 3- to 5-fold increase in access. It can also reduce the cost per patient, although added access will clearly increase short-term substance abuse treatment costs while reducing long-term costs associated with overdose emergencies, HIV infection, and crime."
(Feasibility of OBOT) "Our results demonstrate that methadone maintenance using weekly physician office-based dispensing is feasible, that treatment retention and patient and clinician satisfaction are high, and that illicit drug use does not differ significantly compared with continued treatment in an NTP [narcotic treatment program]. Stable patients demonstrated high functional status and low levels of health and social service use on transfer from an NTP to office-based care.
(Benefits from OBOT) "Office-based methadone maintenance administered by appropriately trained primary care and specialist physicians has the potential to provide an alternative for selected patients to the current narcotic treatment system that would allow for greater physician involvement and perhaps increased quality of care.
(OST and Reductions in Drug Use) "In summary, levomethadyl acetate, buprenorphine, and high-dose methadone were more effective than low-dose methadone in reducing the use of illicit opioids. As compared with low-dose methadone, levomethadyl acetate produced the longest duration of continuous abstinence; buprenorphine administered three times weekly was similar to levomethadyl acetate in terms of study retention and was similar to high-dose methadone in terms of abstinence."
(OST and Patient Retention) The New England Journal of Medicine published a study comparing methadone with LAAM and buprenorphine. The authors concluded that "Levomethadyl acetate, buprenorphine, and high-dose methadone were all effective in treating opioid dependence and were were superior on multiple measures to low-dose methadone. The percentage of patients retained at 17 weeks compared favorably with rates reported elsewhere for these medications."
(OST and Reductions in HIV-Risk Behaviors) A study reported in the March 8, 2000 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that traditional methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) is superior to both short-term and long-term detoxification treatment as a method to treat heroin dependence, concluding, "Our results confirm the usefulness of MMT in reducing heroin use and HIV risk behaviors. Illicit opioid use continued in both groups, but frequency was reduced.
"Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) has been shown to improve life functioning and decrease heroin use; criminal behavior; drug use practices, such as needle sharing, that increase human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) risk; and HIV infection."
"Our results support the hypothesis that harm-reduction-based methadone maintenance treatment decreases the risk of natural-cause and overdose mortality. Furthermore, our data suggest that in harm- reduction-based methadone programs, being in methadone treatment is important in itself, independent of the pharmacologic effect of methadone dosage. To decrease mortality among drug users, prevention measures should be expanded for those who dropout of treatment."
"Although a drug-free state represents an optimal treatment goal, research has demonstrated that this goal cannot be achieved or sustained by the majority of opiate-dependent people. However, other laudable treatment goals, including decreased drug use, reduced criminal activity, and gainful employment can be achieved by most MMT [methadone maintenance treatment] patients."
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Methadone maintenance treatment is effective in reducing illicit opiate drug use, in reducing crime, in enhancing social productivity, and in reducing the spread of viral diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis."