Alcohol holding up methadone treatment

This review asked whether excessive drinking can get in the way of treating heroin addiction.

No current evidence supports the clinical requirement asking people to stop their medicines for opioid addiction if they want to enter alcohol treatment.


Although there is a lot of research behind effective strategies for the screening, diagnosis and management of an alcohol or opioid use disorder individually, less is known about how best to care for those who also use other drugs, especially since the usual treatments for opioid addiction may not be allowed in a setting of alcohol use treatment.

For example, some fellowship meetings discourage people from continuing their medication for opioid addiction (methadone).  Or some residential treatment centres require people to be “drug free” upon enrolment, which includes not using their suboxone. For safety reasons, methadone clinics reduce the dose for patients who drink excessively.

This review summarizes existing research and characterizes the prevalence, clinical implications and management options for heavy drinking among people who also use other illicit drugs.

Drinking by people using agonist medications like methadone or suboxone for opioid use disorders is common and brings along many unwanted side effects. Over time, people die.

We don’t know how to treat people who have alcohol use disorder and who also use other drugs but asking them to come off their prescribed medications isn’t based on evidence.

Nolan, S., Klimas, J., & Wood, E. (2016). Alcohol use in opioid agonist treatment. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice11, 17. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-016-0065-6  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5146864/