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Keywords:

  • Methadone maintenance;
  • substance abuse treatment;
  • opiate;
  • managed care

Objective. To examine the extent to which U.S. methadone maintenance facilities meet established standards for minimum dosages, 1988–2005.

Data Source. Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of outpatient treatment facilities in 1988 (n=172), 1990 (n=140), 1995 (n=116), 2000 (n=150), and 2005 (n=146).

Study Design. Random-effects multiple regression analysis was used to examine unit characteristics associated with below recommended doses.

Data Collection. Data regarding the proportion of patients who received maintenance dosages of <40, 60, and 80 mg/day were collected from unit directors and clinical supervisors.

Principal Findings. Forty-four percent of patients receive doses of at least 80 mg/day—the threshold identified as recommended practice in recent work. Thirty-four percent of patients receive doses below 60 mg/day, while 17 percent receive doses below 40 mg/day. Units that serve a high proportion of African American or Latino clients were more likely to report low-dose care. Units managed by individuals who strongly favor abstinence models (e.g., Narcotics Anonymous) were more likely to provide low-dose care.

Conclusions. One-third of methadone facilities provide doses below recommended levels. Managerial attitudes about abstinence and their relationship to low doses underscore the contested role of methadone in treatment of opiate disorders.