Methadone Treatment Effectiveness
Despite the varying points of view, it is difficult to dismiss the effectiveness of the methadone maintenance treatment in the reduction of heroin use of addicts. In fact, there have been studies that revealed that the methadone treatment program is more effective than the 180-day detoxification programs, which is founded on a series of counseling services. Just how effective is the methadone treatment program?
Comparison with the Alternative
Methadone maintenance treatment is a popularly used, but often controversial method of stopping heroin addiction. Compared to its alternative, the 180-day methadone assisted detoxification, the methadone maintenance treatment resulted in lower usage rates with less drug-related HIV risk behaviors like needle sharing for example.
Based on a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, 179 participants were enrolled in the study and were assessed every month for a period of one year. Collected urine specimen was used as the basis for testing. Addicts in the methadone maintenance treatment were given stable doses. An hour-long group therapy per week was part of the program, which participants attended during the first six months.
Participants in the 180-day detoxification treatment were given 120 days of methadone treatment that was followed by 60 days of methadone dose reduction. This continued to the point where they no longer took methadone. For the first six months the participants attended a two-hour group therapy for substance abuse and an hour of cocaine group therapy if they used the drug. Individual group therapy was also part of the treatment program.
Not only did the methadone maintenance treatment retain more patients, but it was also more effective in reducing heroin use. Cocaine addicts were more likely to drop the 180-day program compared to the methadone treatment program.
Aside from treatment retention, another possible gauge of effectiveness is the reduction of opioid use. This has been the subject of research ever since the methadone maintenance treatment was introduced to cope with opioid dependence.
In 1998, the Marsch meta-analysis found that there was a consistent statistical relationship between the reduction of opioid use and methadone maintenance treatment. In 2007 a more recent meta-analysis was introduced and it supported the findings of Marsch. Randomized controlled trials showed reduced abuse of opioid.
Despite establishing the reduction in opioid use with the methadone maintenance treatment, it should be noted that the reductions are dependent on whether the addict receives adequate dosage levels or not. The reductions were also maintained for as long as addicts received methadone treatment. The conclusion was that addicts were less likely to be involved in heroin usage as long as the proper dosage of methadone was received.
Cost Benefits and Effectiveness
When we take into account the cost of untreated dependence on opioid, the cost of delivering methadone maintenance treatment is dwarfed by its benefits. Are you aware that the cost per annum of the treatment is significantly lower compared to the cost of drug-free treatment programs, untreated heroin usage, or incarceration? In fact, social costs of the criminal activities that are associated with heroin use are four times higher than the methadone treatment.
In the United States, every dollar spent on the delivery of the methadone maintenance treatment program translates to a savings of anywhere from $4 to $13 for the community. The same cost benefits are now being observed in Canada, particularly in Toronto where it is estimated that the average social cost of having untreated opioid dependents can reach roughly $44,600 a year. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto further estimates that the annual cost of providing methadone maintenance treatment would be about $6,000 every year.
The higher retention rates combined with lower delivery costs of the methadone maintenance treatment program compared to other treatment programs for opioid dependence makes it a considerably cost-effective solution. The cost effectiveness of the methadone treatment program compared to other programs produced a benefit to cost ratio of 4.4 is to 1 based on one study.