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May 1, 1991

Criteria for Judging Methadone Maintenance Programs

Author Affiliations

Beth Israel Medical Center New York, NY

Beth Israel Medical Center New York, NY

JAMA. 1991;265(17):2190-2191. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460170044021

To the Editor.—  The US General Accounting Office (GAO) recently conducted a study of the effectiveness of methadone maintenance treatment.1 The study deserves more attention because it illustrates the potential effectiveness of methadone treatment, the nonmedical concerns that often limit its actual outcome, and the difficulties in applying research data to regulatory policies.The study reviewed 5600 patients' records at 24 methadone treatment programs in eight states, and it provides an overview of current outcomes. The results are similar to those from previous, more rigorous studies of methadone treatment2-4 that led the National Institute on Drug Abuse to judge methadone maintenance "the most effective method available for treating heroin addiction. "1(p11)The GAO found that every program achieved abstinence from heroin use in over 50% of patients in treatment for at least 6 months. However, applying a criterion that programs should reduce the number of patients using