Pharmacologic treatment of heroin-dependent patients

Ann Intern Med. 2000 Jul 4;133(1):40-54. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-133-1-200007040-00008.


Patients with heroin dependence frequently present to internists and other physicians for heroin-related medical, psychiatric, and behavioral health problems and often seek help with reducing their heroin use. Thus, physicians should be familiar with the identification and diagnosis of heroin dependence in their patients and be able to initiate treatment of heroin dependence both directly and by referral. Recent research has provided much information concerning effective pharmacologically based treatment approaches for managing opioid withdrawal and helping patients to remain abstinent Methadone maintenance and newer approaches using L-alpha acetylmethadol and buprenorphine seem to be particularly effective in promoting relapse prevention. Although these treatments are currently provided in special drug treatment settings, recent and ongoing research indicates that the physician's office may be an effective alternative site for these treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use
  • Counseling
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy*
  • Heroin Dependence / psychology
  • Heroin Dependence / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Methadyl Acetate / analogs & derivatives
  • Methadyl Acetate / therapeutic use
  • Naltrexone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Physician's Role
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / therapy


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • paracymethadol
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Methadyl Acetate
  • Methadone