"Those individuals in the study who were not prescribed methadone were almost four times more likely to become HIV positive," Keith Ahamad, a study lead and an addiction medicine physician, said. "This study not only increases the evidence base for methadone to treat opioid-use disorders and decrease the spread of HIV, it also highlights the importance of primary care physicians in treating substance use disorders.
"These findings are particularly important in light of recent outbreaks of HIV infection among opioid users, where methadone treatment is either illegal or difficult to access such as recent outbreaks in the U.S. and Europe,"
Evan Wood, the study’s senior author and the medical director of addiction services at Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care, said the study reinforces the benefits of low-threshold methadone on public health goals such as reducing the spread of HIV.
"These findings reinforce the opportunity to improve addiction treatment by improving the overall approach to treating opioid addiction,” Ahamad said. “This requires improved access to methadone programs, but also expanding the diversity of evidence-based treatment options for people struggling with opioid addiction."
Further details from the study, which emphasized the significant benefits of methadone maintenance, are available in The Lancet.