Expanding methadone treatment

October 06, 1998

An excerpt from a Saturday New York Times editorial:

The Clinton administration's decision to make methadonmore accessible to heroin users is a long-needed change in national policy.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, head of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy, has proposed allowing physicians to administer methadone in their offices. Currently it is dispensed through clinics, limiting the number of people who can use this treatment. Only about 115,000 of the estimated 800,000 Americans addicted to opiates are participating in methadone maintenance programs.

Decades of experience have shown that methadone treatment is the most effective way to control heroin addiction. Methadone blunts the craving for the opiate, with substantial benefits to society. A federal study has found that those on methadone maintenance cut their heroin use by 70 percent and their criminal activity by 57 percent and increased their full-time employment by 24 percent.

Scientific panels convened by the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences have all recommended that government regulations be eased so that more people can benefit from methadone.

Yet ignorance and prejudice persist. Several states ban methadone programs despite clear evidence of their effectiveness.

No single approach works for every addict, but methadone, when properly administered and coupled with counseling, has helped thousands reclaim their lives. Under the new national policy, many more addicts might do the same.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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