Is methadone an effective treatment for heroin addiction?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
Treatment with methadone is among the best studied of all drug treatment strategies. For example, the Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study tracked 10,010 people dependent on opiates and other drugs, including heroin, who entered nearly 100 treatment programs. Among people taking methadone, weekly heroin use decreased 69%, cocaine use decreased by 48%, illegal activity decreased by 52%, and full-time work increased by 24%. Methadone treatment also reduces human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission and hepatitis B and C infections, presumably by reducing intravenous drug use and needle sharing.

People who abuse heroin should consider seeking treatment at a methadone clinic. However, because treatment typically lasts at least a year, shorter-term options should be explored.

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