A National Swedish Methadone Program 1966-1989

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Methadone Maintenance treatment of compulsive opioid addiction was started by the study of Dole and Nyswander (1965) and has subsequently been replicated in programs throughout the world. Methadone treatment has become the most effective modality for the treatment of chronic heroin addiction. In 1966 a Swedish National methadone maintenance program was opened at the Psychiatric Research Center, Ulleråker hospital at Uppsala.The aim of this thesis was to study the outcome of methadone treatment along various lines:• An open randomised controlled study comparing the efficacy of methadone treatment and drug free treatment in 34 heroin addicts, 20-24 years of age. • Before/after comparisons of rehabilitation among 345 heroin addicts admitted during the 23 years when this was a centralised National program.• Retention in treatment.Study subjects, methods and treatment goals: Subjects underwent an admission procedure when background data was collected through hospital records, and personal interviews. Therapeutic efforts focused on vocational rehabilitation, i.e. a return to full-time work or studies, hoping to make patients abandon their drug addict’s life-style and make them socially accepted and self-supporting. Results: Thirty-four heroin addicts with a history of 4-8 years of heroin use were randomly assigned either to methadone treatment (17) or an untreated control group (17). The controls could not apply for methadone treatment until two years later. Outcome after six years observation showed that 81% became free of drug abuse, while the corresponding figure for the controls was only 1/17 (6%). The mean yearly death rate for the controls was 7.2%. Likewise, among the total material of 345 heroin addicts, 70-80% of the patients became engaged in work or studies, a significant increase compared with the situation before treatment (1.7%). The program was an effective reducer of illicit heroin use and criminality among its patients and prevented the occurrence of HIV infection among patients in long-term methadone treatment. The average one-year retention during 1967-1989 was 90% and cumulative retention showed that 29% were still in treatment 10 years after admission.Conclusion: The present results emphasise the importance of vocational rehabilitation and support in a treatment strategy based on long-term maintenance therapy.