Are supplementary services provided during methadone maintenance really cost-effective?

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Sep;154(9):1214-9. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.9.1214.


Objective: Previous research has suggested that support services supplementing methadone maintenance programs vary in their cost-effectiveness. This study examined the cost-effectiveness of varying levels of supplementary support services to determine whether the relative cost-effectiveness of alternative levels of support is sustained over time.

Method: A group of 100 methadone-maintained opiate users were randomly assigned to three treatment groups receiving different levels of support services during a 24-week clinical trial. One group received methadone treatment with a minimum of counseling, the second received methadone plus more intensive counseling, and the third received methadone plus enhanced counseling, medical, and psychosocial services. The results at the end of the trial period have been published elsewhere. This article reports the results of an analysis at a 6-month follow-up.

Results: The follow-up analysis reaffirmed the preliminary findings that the methadone plus counseling level provided the most cost-effective implementation of the treatment program. At 12 months, the annual cost per abstinent client was $16,485, $9,804, and $11,818 for the low, intermediate, and high levels of support, respectively. Abstinence rates were highest, but modestly so, for the group receiving the high-intensity, high-cost methadone with enhanced services intervention.

Conclusions: This study suggests that large amounts of support to methadone-maintained clients are not cost-effective, but it also demonstrates that moderate amounts of support are better than minimal amounts. As funding for these programs is reduced, these findings suggest a floor below which supplementary support should not fall.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Counseling / economics*
  • Counseling / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / economics
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Methadone