Twenty-two male patients, addicted to heroin 9.5 years (median), were stabilized using oral methadone hydrochloride and then observed for approximately 1 to 15 months (median, 3 months). The medication had 2 main effects: (1) relief of narcotic hunger (craving); and (2) induction of sufficient tolerance to block the average illegal dose of heroin.
A combination of the methadone treatment and a comprehensive program of rehabilitation was associated with marked improvement in patient problems such as jobs, returning to school, and family reconciliation. No adverse effect other than constipation was found.
The authors note that “careful medical supervision and many social services” were necessary and stressed that “both the medication and supporting program were essential.” The small size of the group studied and short duration of the follow-up would best describe this as a promising and exciting but preliminary report.
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