Methadone appears to be the best way to handle hard-core heroin abuse, despite numerous negative reports in past years about the substitute drug, drug researchers reported last week during a symposium in Palm Beach, Fla.
Dr. Loretta P. Finnegan of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said methadone got a bad name because many of the clinics treating heroin addicts have provided inadequate care and follow-up.
"But we know that patients receiving adequate amounts of methadone, plus treatment for their other drug-associated problems, can be maintained drug free often for the remainder of their lives," Finnegan said.
An estimated 2 million Americans have tried heroin, 1 million have used it recently and 500,000 use it weekly, she said.
The only identified problem that methadone causes is mild withdrawal symptoms in some newborns, Finnegan said. However, symptoms pass within three weeks and can be treated with a mild opiate such as paregoric.