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February 1975

Controlling the Abuse of Illicit Methadone in Washington, DC

Author Affiliations

From the Bureau of Epidemiology, Center for Disease Control, US Public Health Service, Atlanta (Dr. Greene); the Bureau of Research and Development, Narcotics Treatment Administration, Department of Human Resources, Government of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC (Dr. Brown); and the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, Executive Office of the President, Washington, DC (Dr. DuPont).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975;32(2):221-226. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1975.01760200085008

Methadone hydrochloride has been found to be medically safe when administered in the setting of a well-organized heroin addiction treatment program. The abuse of illicit methadone, outside the therapeutic setting, has aroused considerable controversy, particularly with regard to the public health hazards of primary methadone addiction, overdose, abuse, and childhood poisoning.

We attempted to document the nature and extent of these negative aspects of the diversion of methadone into the illicit drug market, using data collected between 1969 and 1974 in the District of Columbia. The data illustrate the severe problems created by the widespread availability of illicit methadone, and document that, with the appropriate controls, the large-scale use of methadone in addiction treatment is feasible with minimum risk of methadone addiction and overdose in the community.