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.

Continue Learning about Opiate Agonists

Do prescription opioids cause more deaths than cocaine and heroin?
Howard J. Shaffer, PhDHoward J. Shaffer, PhD
Today, people face stiff penalties for possessing cocaine or heroin, yet data suggest that opioi...
More Answers
How can I prevent opioid medication withdrawal symptoms?
Travis M. Hendry, MDTravis M. Hendry, MD
To avoid opioid medication (strong medications that affect the way your brain handles pain signa...
More Answers
What medication should I avoid if I have a bowel obstruction?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Do not take the painkiller Avinza (morphine) if you have paralytic ileus, a partial or complete bowe...
More Answers
How do you treat constipation and other side effects of taking opioids?
Devi E. Nampiaparampil, MDDevi E. Nampiaparampil, MD
Your doctor may prescribe a stool softener along with an opioid to prevent constipation. Other commo...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.