Loosening on-the-go methadone limits did not lead to worse outcomes
Relaxing dose limits for take-home methadone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, does not appear to lead to worse treatment outcomes, according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University .
Posted in American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, The study examined the impact of a temporary policy change allowing providers to send patients home with extra doses of methadone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, federal regulations allowed take-out privileges only for established patients who have been shown to be stable, a measure intended to reduce the risk of patients selling the supplied methadone.
While the researchers saw the average number of take-home methadone doses almost double during the pandemic, they found no significant change in treatment outcomes. There has been no increase in the number of patients going to the emergency room, either because of an overdose or for other reasons. There was also no noticeable increase in the number of patients who tested negative for methadone.
Our research underscores the need to consider a permanent easing of restrictions on take-home methadone doses, which would help many people who are struggling to access opioid treatment. “
Ofer Amram, lead author of the study
Ofer Amram is Assistant Professor at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine whose research focuses on reducing health disparities in vulnerable populations.
The study was based on data from 183 patients treated at a methadone clinic in Spokane County, Washington. The clinic’s take-home methadone doses dropped from 11.4 doses per 30 days in the eight months leading up to the pandemic policy change to 22.3 doses per 30 days over the following eight months.
Methadone can only be prescribed and dispensed through federally approved opioid treatment programs, and there are only about 1,800 such programs in the country. This makes the daily visits needed to obtain methadone particularly difficult for people who live far from a treatment program, Amram said.
In a previously published study of patients attending the same clinic involved in this study, the only state-funded methadone clinic in eastern Washington, Amram and his co-authors showed that patients who lived closer to the clinic continued their treatment better than those who lived further away. a way. Yet home intake limitations pose problems, even for those who live near a treatment clinic but do not have reliable access to transportation or find daily visits taking too long away from home. jobs, Amram said.
Amram’s co-authors on the study, “The Impact of Relaxing Take-Out Methadone Protocols on Treatment Outcomes in the COVID-19 Era,” include Solmaz Amiri, Victoria Panwala and Robert Lutz of the WSU College of Medicine; Paul J. Joudrey of the Yale School of Medicine and Eugenia Socias of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
The study was funded by a Washington State University faculty seed grant and the university’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program.