Unsupervised, at-home methadone use appears safe, study suggests

Two years after the HHS cleared patients to take methadone, an opioid overdose treatment that's also an opioid, the number of opioid-related deaths didn't change, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the CDC. 

As the healthcare industry scrambled to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the HHS relaxed restrictions and waived the requirement for pharmacies to supervise patients' use of the liquid medicine, which can be dangerous in excess.

The study, published July 13 in Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed CDC data and found that the number of methadone-involved overdoses remained stable while the count of opioid overdoses that didn't involve the treatment steadily increased. 

Data looked similar for opioid overdose deaths, with methadone use decreasing its share of total fatal overdoses since the policy change, according to the study. Deaths involving methadone fell from 4.5 percent to 3.2 percent between January 2019 and August 2021.

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