Objectives: The aim was to determine whether methadone maintenance treatment reduced heroin use, syringe sharing and HIV or hepatitis C incidence among prisoners.
Methods: All eligible prisoners seeking drug treatment were randomised to methadone or a waitlist control group from 1997 to 1998 and followed up after 4 months. Heroin use was measured by hair analysis and self report; drugs used and injected and syringe sharing were measured by self report. Hepatitis C and HIV incidence was measured by serology.
Results: Of 593 eligible prisoners, 382 (64%) were randomised to MMT (n=191) or control (n=191). 129 treated and 124 control subjects were followed up at 5 months. Heroin use was significantly lower among treated than control subjects at follow up. Treated subjects reported lower levels of drug injection and syringe sharing at follow up. There was no difference in HIV or hepatitis C incidence.
Conclusions: Consideration should be given to the introduction of prison methadone programs particular where community based programs exist.