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Methadone maintenance for opioid use disorder

Substance Use Disorders: Medication-assisted Treatment
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated December 2016.
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Methadone is an opiate substitution treatment used to treat opioid dependence. It is a synthetic opioid that blocks the effects of opiates, reduces withdrawal symptoms, and relieves cravings. Methadone is a daily medication dispensed in outpatient clinics that specialize in methadone treatment and is often used in conjunction with behavioral counseling approaches. The studies included in our analysis evaluated methadone maintenance rather than short-term detoxification or stabilization. We excluded studies with treatment dosages below standard guidances (< 50 mg/day).
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $2,059 Benefits minus costs $6,194
Participants $2,698 Benefit to cost ratio $2.40
Others $969 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $4,907 benefits greater than the costs 84%
Total benefits $10,633
Net program cost ($4,439)
Benefits minus cost $6,194

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

^^WSIPP does not include this outcome when conducting benefit-cost analysis for this program.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
37 8 623 -0.945 0.304 37 0.000 0.000 38 -0.945 0.002
37 3 259 -0.672 0.112 37 0.000 0.000 38 -0.672 0.001
37 3 286 0.242 0.464 37 n/a n/a n/a 0.242 0.602
37 2 223 -0.281 0.250 37 n/a n/a n/a -0.281 0.261
37 3 137 -0.236 0.261 37 0.000 0.000 38 -0.236 0.365
37 3 492 -0.559 0.242 37 n/a n/a n/a -0.559 0.021
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime Criminal justice system $1 $0 $3 $1 $5
Opioid use disorder Labor market earnings associated with opioid drug abuse or dependence $757 $1,784 $0 $0 $2,541
Health care associated with opioid drug abuse or dependence $969 $135 $966 $485 $2,555
Mortality associated with opioids $331 $780 $0 $6,641 $7,752
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($2,219) ($2,219)
Totals $2,059 $2,698 $969 $4,907 $10,633
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $3,613 2012 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($4,439)
Comparison costs $0 2012 Cost range (+ or -) 20%
We estimate the per-participant costs of providing methadone in addition to standard substance abuse treatment for 12 months. Costs reflect the average of costs reported in numerous cost-effectiveness studies (Rosenhack and Kosten, 2001; Jones et al., 2009; Nordlund et al., 2004; Masson et al, 2004). Costs included vary by study but generally include costs of medication, dispensing, toxicology screens, medical care related to methadone treatment, and when available, costs of equipment, administration, and clinic space. Treatment as usual in this case may include counseling or other services. Jones, E.S., Moore, B.A., Sindelar, J.L., O’Connor, P.G., Schottenfeld, R.S., & Fiellin, D.A. (2009). Cost analysis of clinic and office-based treatment of opioid dependence: Results with methadone and buprenorphine in clinically stable patients. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 99(1), 132-140. Masson, C.L., Barnett, P.G., Sees, K.L., Delucchi, K.L., Rosen, A., Wong, W., & Hall, S.M. (2004). Cost and cost-effectiveness of standard methadone maintenance treatment compared to enriched 180-day methadone detoxification. Addiction, 99(6), 718-726. Nordlund, D.J., Estee, S., Mancuso, D., & Felver, B. (2004). Methadone treatment for opiate addiction lowers health care costs and reduces arrests and convictions. Olympia, Wash.: Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Services, Research and Data Analysis Division. Rosenheck, R., & Kosten, T. (2001). Buprenorphine for opiate addiction: potential economic impact. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 63(3), 253-262.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Bale, R.N., Van, S.W.W., Kuldau, J.M., Engelsing, T.M., Elashoff, R.M., & Zarcone, V.P.J. (1980). Therapeutic communities vs methadone maintenance. A prospective controlled study of narcotic addiction treatment: design and one-year follow-up. Archives of General Psychiatry, 37, 2, 179-193.

Dolan, K.A., Shearer, J., MacDonald, M., Mattick, R.P., Hall, W., & Wodak, A.D. (2003). A randomised controlled trial of methadone maintenance treatment versus wait list control in an Australian prison system. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 72(1), 59-65.

Gronbladh, L. & Gunne, L. (1989). Methadone-assisted rehabilitation of Swedish heroin addicts. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 24(1), 31-37.

Gruber, V.A., Delucchi, K.L., Kielstein, A., & Batki, S.L. (2008). A randomized trial of 6-month methadone maintenance with standard or minimal counseling versus 21-day methadone detoxification. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 94, 1, 199-206.

Kinlock, T., Gordon, M., Schwartz, R., O'Grady, K., Fitzgerald, T., & Wilson, M. (2007). A randomized clinical trial of methadone maintenance for prisoners: Results at 1-month post-release. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 91(2-3), 220-227.

Newman, R., & Whitehill, W. (1979). Double-blind comparison of methadone and placebo maintenance treatments of narcotic addicts in Hong Kong. The Lancet, 314(8141), 485-488.

Schwartz, R.P., Highfield, D.A., Jaffe, J.H., Brady, J.V., Butler, C.B., Rouse, C.O., Callaman, J.M., ... Battjes, R.J. (2006). A randomized controlled trial of interim methadone maintenance. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63(1), 102-9.

Schwartz, R.P., Jaffe, J.H., Highfield, D.A., Callaman, J.M., & O'Grady, K.E. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of interim methadone maintenance: 10-Month follow-up. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 86(1), 30-36.

Strain, E.C., Stitzer, M. L., Liebson, I.A., & Bigelow, G.E. (1993). Dose-response effects of methadone in the treatment of opioid dependence. Annals of Internal Medicine, 119(1), 23-27.

Vanichseni, S., Wongsuwan, B., Choopanya, K., & Wongpanich, K. (1991). A controlled trial of methadone maintenance in a population of intravenous drug users in Bangkok: Implications for prevention of HIV. International Journal of the Addictions, 26(12), 1.

Wilson, M.E., Schwartz, R.P., O'Grady, K.E., & Jaffe, J.H. (2010). Impact of interim methadone maintenance on HIV risk behaviors. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 87(4), 586-591.