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March 21, 1977

Ability to Remain Abstinent After Methadone DetoxificationA Six-Year Study

JAMA. 1977;237(12):1216-1220. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270390032021

Three hundred thirty-five persons successfully detoxified from methadone hydrochloride maintenance were followed up for as long as six years to determine their ability to remain abstinent from narcotic use. At the end of the observation period, of the 269 persons located, 35% were narcotic-free, 58% had returned to narcotic use, and 8% were either jailed or deceased. The ability of a person to refrain from narcotic use was found to be highly associated with staff's assessment of progress and duration of methadone maintenance treatment. Relapse to narcotic use occurred regardless of length of abstinence, with 35% of relapses occurring after three or more years. While abstinence after narcotic dependency is possible, it is not a realistic goal for all. Premature detoxification from methadone maintenance is associated with a high recidivism rate to narcotics.

(JAMA 237:1216-1220, 1977)