Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Arch Intern Med. 2004 Feb 9;164(3):277-88.

Treating opioid dependence. Growing implications for primary care.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Denver Health, Denver, CO 80204, USA.


Almost 3 million Americans have abused heroin. The most effective treatment for this concerning epidemic is opioid replacement therapy. Although, from a historical perspective, acceptance of this therapy has been slow, growing evidence supports its efficacy. There are 3 approved medications for opioid maintenance therapy: methadone hydrochloride, levomethadyl acetate, and buprenorphine hydrochloride. Each has unique characteristics that determine its suitability for an individual patient. Cardiac arrhythmias have been reported with methadone and levomethadyl, but not with buprenorphine. Due to concerns about cardiac risk, levomethadyl use has declined and the product may ultimately be discontinued. These recent safety concerns, specifics about opioid detoxification and maintenance, and new federal initiatives were studied. Opioid detoxification has a role in both preventing acute withdrawal and maintaining long-term abstinence. Although only a minority of eligible patients are engaged in treatment, opioid maintenance therapy appears to offer the greatest public health benefits. There is growing interest in expanding treatment into primary care, allowing opioid addiction to be managed like other chronic illnesses. This model has gained wide acceptance in Europe and is now being implemented in the United States. The recent Drug Addiction Treatment Act enables qualified physicians to treat opioid-dependent patients with buprenorphine in an office-based setting. Mainstreaming opioid addiction treatment has many advantages; its success will depend on resolution of ethical and delivery system issues as well as improved and expanded training of physicians in addiction medicine.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Silverchair Information Systems
    Loading ...
    Support Center