New study out now: Replacing heroin with alcohol upon entry to methadone?

April 4: Methadone is a medication used in treatment of people with dependence from heroin or other opioids. Many people who take it drink too much alcohol. We don’t know whether it’s because or in spite of taking this medication. We wanted to know the impact of enrolment in methadone treatment on the onset of heavy drinking among people who use heroin.
 Our approach: We analysed information from thousands of interviews from long-term, community-based studies of people who inject drugs in Vancouver, Canada, between December 1, 2005 and May 31, 2014.
What have we found: In total, 357 people who use heroin were included in this study. Of these, 58% enrolled in methadone at some point between 2005-2014, and 32% reported starting to drink heavily. Those who started the treatment said they drank less compared to those who did not start it. It didn’t even make them start drinking faster than those who did not start taking methadone. People who started drinking heavily when they enrolled in methadone were younger than those who did not start drinking heavily. They also used more cannabis.
What does this mean: It is clear that many people in the methadone treatment have problems with alcohol. It seems that they do not drink because they take this medication which may even appear to decrease the initiation of heavy drinking. Our findings suggest younger age and cannabis use may predict heavy drinking. These findings could help inform on-going discussions about the effects of opioid agonist therapy on alcohol consumption among people who use heroin.
This blog is based on article was Accepted for publication in the European Addiction Research Journal on January 31, 2016. The full title of the article is: The Impact of Enrolment in Methadone Maintenance Therapy on Initiation of Heavy Drinking among People who Use Heroin. The authors of the article are following:
Jan Klimas
Evan Wood
Paul Nguyen
Huiru Dong
M-J Milloy
Thomas Kerr

Kanna Hayashi