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Lancet. 1999 Jan 16;353(9148):221-6.

Role of maintenance treatment in opioid dependence.

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  • 1Division of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra.


Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) involves the daily administration of the oral opioid agonist methadone as a treatment for opioid dependence-a persistent disorder with a substantial risk of premature death. MMT improves health and reduces illicit heroin use, infectious-disease transmission, and overdose death. However, its effectiveness is compromised if low maintenance doses of methadone (<60 mg) are used and patients are pressured to become prematurely abstinent from methadone. Pregnancy and psychiatric comorbidity are not contraindications for MMT. As an alternative to MMT, other oral opioid agents (eg, naltrexone, buprenorphine) may increase patient choice and avoid some of the more unpleasant aspects of MMT. The public-health challenge for the future is to develop and continue to deliver safe and effective forms of opioid maintenance treatment to as many opioid-dependent individuals as can benefit from them.

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