50 years ago, methadone made a rosy debut | Science News



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50 Years Ago

50 years ago, methadone made a rosy debut

Excerpt from the February 4, 1967, issue of Science News

7:00am, January 26, 2017

DOUBLE-EDGED DRUG  Methadone was heralded as the answer to opiate addiction. But for all its benefits, it’s still an opiate.

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[T]he drug methadone appears to have fulfilled its promise as an answer to heroin addiction. Some 276 hard-core New York addicts … have lost their habits and none have returned to heroin — a 100 percent success rating. Methadone, a synthetic narcotic, acts by blocking the euphoric effect of opiates. Addicts thus get nothing from heroin and feel no desire to take it. — Science News. February 4, 1967.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methadone as a treatment for opiate addiction in 1972 but quickly recognized that it was no panacea. That same year, policy makers worried that methadone would produce addicts — as patients got high off the treatment itself (SN: 10/28/72, p. 277). Methadone can be deadly: In 2014, 3,400 people died of methadone overdoses. Although methadone is still used, drugs such as buprenorphine and naltrexone have joined the treatment arsenal for opiate addiction.


Institute of Medicine, (U.S.) Committee on Federal Regulation of Methadone Treatment, R.A. Rettig, A. Yarmolinsky, eds. Federal Regulation of Methadone Treatment. The National Academies Press, 1995. doi: 10.17226/4899.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.

C.M. Jones et al. Trends in Methadone Distribution for Pain Treatment, Methadone Diversion, and Overdose Deaths — United States, 2002–2014. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, July 8, 2016, p. 667. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6526a2.

Further Reading

L. Sanders. Number of teens who report doing drugs falls in 2016. Science News Online. December 13, 2016.

L. Sanders. Fentanyl’s death toll is rising. Science News. Vol. 190,  September 3, 2016, p. 14.

S. Gaidos. Vaccines could counter addictive opioids. Science News. Vol. 190,  July 9, 2016, p. 22.

N. Seppa. Implants help heroin addicts kick habit. Science News. Vol. 178, November 6, 2010, p. 11.

Methadone Addict: New Class of Drug Abuser. Science News. Vol. 102, October 28, 1972, p. 277.

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