Allowing patients to take home the opioid addiction treatment methadone during the pandemic did not lead to an increase in overdose deaths, a new study finds.
Methadone is only available at opioid treatment centers that are federally certified. Patients are required to visit clinics to receive medication. Because of the pandemic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) permitted states to request exceptions to provide a 28-day supply of methadone for stable patients to take home. Patients who were deemed less stable were allowed to take home a 14-day supply.
The study found that while overdose deaths both with and without methadone treatment increased in March 2020, overdose deaths that did not involve methadone continued to increase in the months after the policy change. However, overdose deaths involving methadone held steady, HealthDay reports.
“Treatment is an essential tool to stop the addiction and overdose crises, but it is vastly underused,” study senior author Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release. “This evidence adds significant weight to the argument that effective treatment for substance use disorders should be offered in an accessible and practical way that works for people who need it.”