Evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorders: A national study of methadone dose levels, 2011-2017
The nation's methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) programs play a central role in addressing the current opioid epidemic. Considerable evidence documents the treatment effectiveness of MMT and, in turn, the importance of adequate dosing to MMT's effectiveness. Yet, as recently as 2011, 41% of patients received doses below the level of 80 mg/day. Using survey data from a nationally representative sample of MMT programs in 2011 and 2017, we examine (1) the extent to which the nation's MMT programs are meeting evidence-based standards for methadone dose level and (2) characteristics of MMT programs that are associated with variation in performance. Our results show that 43% of MMT patients receive <80 mg/day in 2017, and 23% of methadone maintenance patients receive daily doses below 60 mg. Results from multivariate regression analysis of the 2017 survey data show that private for-profit and public organizations significantly under-dosed patients compared to private nonprofit providers. Under-dosing also was more common in programs that serve high proportions of African-American patients. These results are concerning because MMT remains the medication of choice for vulnerable patients with the most severe opioid use disorders, and for-profit providers treat a growing proportion of MMT patients.