AP

Relaxed methadone rules appear safe, researchers find

Jul 13, 2022, 8:20 AM | Updated: 9:17 am

As the coronavirus pandemic shut down the nation in March of 2020, the U.S. government told methadone clinics they could allow stable patients with opioid addiction to take their medicine at home unsupervised.

Methadone, an opioid itself, can be dangerous in large amounts and most patients are required to take the liquid medicine daily at clinics. It wasn’t clear whether the relaxed take-home policy would cause more harm than good.

Now, a new study of fatal overdoses from January 2019 to August 2021 suggests that easing access was safe. It did not lead to more deaths involving the treatment drug.

The share of overdose deaths involving methadone declined from 4.5% in January 2019 to 3.2% in August 2021, the study found.

The finding may help make the change permanent, wrote the authors, who are U.S. government researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, chief medical officer of the federal agency that regulates methadone clinics, called the early analysis “very promising.”

When the government eased restrictions, it said stable patients could receive 28 days of take-home methadone and less stable ones could get 14 days. Clinics were allowed to figure out which patients were eligible; many relied on criteria such as time in treatment and absence of criminal activity.

More than 400,000 people in the United States take methadone as part of their treatment for addiction to opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and painkillers. Methadone, when used correctly, can stop drug cravings without causing a high.

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, found that overdose deaths overall — including those involving methadone — increased in March 2020. Then, in the months after the policy change, deaths involving methadone held steady while other fatal overdoses continued to climb.

More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, a record in the nation’s overdose epidemic. Increases were driven by deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine and other stimulants.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incid...

Associated Press

American Airlines CEO calls removal of Black passengers from Phoenix flight ‘unacceptable’

American Airlines put an unspecified number of employees on leave for their involvement in an incident in which several Black passengers were removed from a flight in Phoenix.

1 day ago

FILE - Crystal Baziel holds the Pan-African flag Monday, June 19, 2023, during Reedy Chapel A.M.E C...

Associated Press

The beginner’s guide to celebrating Juneteenth

For more than one-and-a-half centuries, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities. It marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Since it was designated a federal […]

3 days ago

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

7 days ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

8 days ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

11 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Relaxed methadone rules appear safe, researchers find