Methadone appears safe and effective in treating people who use fentanyl, suggests a study presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
“Highly potent fentanyl – often in combination with other substances including alcohol and benzodiazepines – is highly dangerous and responsible in large part for the enormous spike in preventable drug overdose deaths,” said lead researcher Andrew Stone, M.D., Medical Director of Discovery House CTC of Northern Rhode Island. “We conducted this study to see if medication-assisted treatment is effective in treating those who use fentanyl, given its unique properties and extreme potency.”
Stone and colleagues performed urine drug screens on patients admitted to a methadone maintenance treatment program over a 10-month period. Patients were screened for substances including illicit fentanyl, opiates and methadone. Those who tested positive for fentanyl when entering the program appeared to require a slightly higher dose of methadone to reach abstinence. The relapse rate for those who did not test positive for fentanyl was 15 percent, compared with 41 percent for those who tested positive. Most relapses while in treatment involved fentanyl, regardless of which substances were found in the initial drug screen. “The greater relapse rate may be due to the inability of methadone to completely block the ‘high’ users experience with fentanyl,” Dr. Stone said.