Addiction Treatment Forum reports on substance abuse news of interest to opioid treatment programs and patients in methadone maintenance treatment.

newsAT Forum NEWS NOTES & UPDATES #138

February 2010

Compiled & Edited by Sue Emerson - Publisher

Prior Edition: December 2009 / January 2010

List of all News/Updates




Risk Management & Patient Safety in Outpatient Methadone Treatment Conference Now Available for Viewing on the Web Issues Guidelines on Methadone Induction Dosing

Methadone and Other Opioids Not Always Equivalent, Conversion Can Be Lethal

Kentucky Opiate Replacement Treatment Outcome Study (KORTOS): Summary of Results

Diverted Methadone and Buprenorphine Primarily Used to Prevent Withdrawal or to Stop Using Heroin

Adults with Prescription-Opioid Dependence Engage in High Rates of HIV Risk Behaviors

SAMHSA Issues 2008 N-SSATS Report on Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities


Obama Proposes Increased Funding for Treatment and Prevention, but 'Balance' Proves Elusive Goal

ONDCP Introduces New Newsletter

New Recovery Month Resources


DSM-V Draft Includes Major Changes to Addictive Disease Classifications


Risk Management & Patient Safety in Outpatient Methadone Treatment Conference Now Available for Viewing on the Web

RiskLast October, the Institute for Research, Education, and Training in Addictions (IRETA) and the Northeast Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) sponsored a one day conference in Chicago on risk management and patient safety in methadone maintenance treatment.

The conference, Effective Strategies in Outpatient Methadone Treatment - Clinical Guidelines and Liability Prevention, included the following presentations that are now available for viewing on the web at no charge.

To view the conference presentations register at:

< Back to top > Issues Guidelines on Methadone Induction Dosing

PCSS MentorOn February 20, the Physicians Clinical Support System for methadone (PCSS-M) issued guidelines on methadone induction dosing. PCSS-M is a support system to connect prescribers of methadone with experienced clinicians for one-to-one mentoring regarding the use of this medication. PCSS-M is coordinated by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) in conjunction with other leading medical societies, and is made possible by support from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

PCSS-M methadone induction dosing guidelines include:

The guidelines can be accessed at:

Source: — February 10, 2010

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Methadone and Other Opioids Not Always Equivalent, Conversion Can Be Lethal

In a comprehensive literature review of poisoning deaths involving opioids from 1999 - 2009, the deaths involving methadone were found to be disproportionately high. Methadone represented less than five percent of all opioid prescriptions but is responsible for a third of the deaths. After four years of investigation, the major underlying cause was found to be fundamental misunderstandings about the properties of the medicine — a "knowledge deficit" — especially when converting patients from other opioids.

After a rapid increase of opioid-related deaths was reported in Utah, then president of the Utah Academy of Pain Medicine, Dr. Lynn Webster decided to find out why, and then find a solution. By reviewing state and federal sources as well as PubMed, he was able to assess demographics, prevalence, and other risk factors related to this significant increase in poisoning deaths involving opioids. Webster found that methadone deaths had more to do with misunderstandings about when to prescribe it, how to convert patients to it from other pain medicines, and how to inform patients about its risks. The research also showed that one-third of the deaths occurred within five days after a dosage change — also suggesting that unfamiliarity with the medicine could lead to accidental deaths.

Webster then brought this information to a consensus conference sponsored by the LifeSource Foundation where a panel of colleagues helped him determine root causes of the problem. After reviewing and discussing the data, the panel identified the following as probable causes underlying the spike: physician error due to knowledge deficits, patient non-adherence to medication regimen, unanticipated medical and psychiatric co-morbidities (including substance abuse), and payer policies that mandate methadone as a first-line coverage.

"Not all pain medicines — even within a class — and not all patients — are created equally," said Dr. Webster. "Methadone is a safe and effective opioid with pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics unlike other opioids, so knowledge about it and how it may affect a specific patient is paramount to a positive clinical outcome. Education about pain medicine is the best safeguard against the unintended deaths and side effects we've seen with methadone in the last decade."

According to Webster, simple conversion from one opioid twice a day to another twice a day is not safe. Patient pharmacogenetics (a patient's unique response to medicine based on his or her genetics), especially when converting between opioids, along with the properties of the medicine, must be taken under advisement to determine appropriate therapy. In addition, he advises that switching a patient to methadone must be done slowly and over time: start with a low dose, and titrate from there in increments that make sense for the patient and the pain condition.

Source: — February 4, 2010

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Kentucky Opiate Replacement Treatment Outcome Study (KORTOS): Summary of Results

The KORTOS project collects data on patients in Kentucky who are active participants in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in opioid treatment programs (OTPs). The overall goal of the KORTOS project is to examine the social functioning of patients who are participating in maintenance treatment.

The following data is based on 191 patients who completed both an intake and a follow-up interview between March 1, 2007 and December 30, 2009.

The initial outcomes report for the first sample of follow-up interviews indicates positive shifts occurring for patients in MAT in the areas of legal involvement, substance abuse, and participation in recovery support groups.

Outcome Category % at Intake % at Follow-up
Legal Involvement

Arrested on any charge
Spent one or more nights in jail
Currently on probation
Currently on parole
Substance Abuse

Prescription opioids
Methadone without a prescription
Used more than one substance per day (excluding tobacco)
Recovery Support in Past 30 Days

Attended AA/NA/MA or other self-help group meetings


OTP patient employment patterns and education levels were stable between intake and follow-up.


Outcome Category % at Intake % at Follow-up
Employment Pattern

Employed full or part-time
Highest Completed Education Level

Less than 12th grade
HS grad or GED
Post-secondary education


The authors of the KORTOS Study report Erin Stevenson and Robert Walker concluded "the initial findings from the KORTOS project indicate positive changes for clients in long-term medication assisted treatment. Decreased substance use, fewer arrests, less time spent in jail, stable employment patterns, increased educational attainment, and increased use of social supports all point towards effective recovery being made by clients in Kentucky’s medication-assisted treatment data. These initial findings support the positive effects that medication assisted treatment have for clients, their families, and society as a whole."

Source: University of Kentucky CDAR on behalf of the Kentucky Division of Behavioral Health — January 21, 2010

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Diverted Methadone and Buprenorphine Primarily Used to Prevent Withdrawal or to Stop Using Heroin

Opioid agonist treatment (OAT) with methadone or buprenorphine is effective for reducing illicit drug use among opioid-dependent patients. However, the diversion of these agents may be harmful. As part of a larger longitudinal study conducted in Baltimore, MD, between 2004 and 2007, a subsample of the original 515 opioid-dependent subjects, most of whom were seeking methadone treatment, were recruited to undergo in-depth interviews regarding their use of diverted methadone or buprenorphine.

Comments: Although this was a small sample of an opioid-dependent population in 1 locale, it is reassuring that diverted methadone and buprenorphine was primarily taken to reduce heroin use, and that modest doses were used. However, this study does not allay concern about the potential dangers of these drugs among the less experienced people who use them.

Published In: Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Health: Current Evidence a project of the Boston Medical Center issue November/December 2009. Access checked 2/10/10. Darius A. Rastegar, MD

Original Source: Mitchell SG, Kelly SM, Brown BS, et al. Uses of diverted methadone and buprenorphine by opioid-addicted individuals in Baltimore, Maryland. Am J Addict. 2009;18(5):346-355

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Adults with Prescription-Opioid Dependence Engage in High Rates of HIV Risk Behaviors

PillsHeroin users, particularly those who engage in injection drug use (IDU), are well known to be at increased risk for HIV infection. Less is known about the risk behaviors of those who abuse prescription opioids. Researchers compared data on HIV risk behaviors obtained via interview from persons seeking detoxification treatment for heroin (n=27) or oxycodone (n=23) dependence at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Demographic characteristics were similar between groups.

Comments: Although this study looked at a small number of subjects at a single institution, the findings suggest that prescription-opioid-dependent adults engage in risky sexual behaviors at rates comparable to, if not higher than, their heroin-dependent counterparts. It also suggests that more needs to be done to screen these individuals for HIV infection and counsel them regarding their risk.

Published In: Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Health: Current Evidence a project of the Boston Medical Center issue November/December 2009. Access checked 2/10/10. Darius A. Rastegar, MD

Original Source: Meade CS, McDonald LJ, Weiss RD. HIV risk behavior in opioid dependent adults seeking detoxification treatment: an exploratory comparison of heroin and oxycodone users. Am J Addict. 2009;18(4):289-293.

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SAMHSA Issues 2008 N-SSATS Report on Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released findings from the 2008 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), an annual census of substance abuse treatment facilities that provides data on the location and characteristics of alcohol and drug abuse treatment services throughout the US.

The report’s findings include:

The 230 page report can be accessed at:

Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — January 20, 2009

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Obama Proposes Increased Funding for Treatment and Prevention, but 'Balance' Proves Elusive Goal

WashingtonThe following provides highlights of a news feature article written by Bob Curly from

The Obama administration's first stab at crafting its own national drug-control budget priorities (PDF) adds new funding for addiction treatment and prevention, but does little to close the huge gap between spending on drug supply- and demand-reduction efforts despite promises of a "balanced" strategy.

The FY2011 National Drug Control Budget released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on Feb. 1 includes a 13.4 percent increase in spending on alcohol and other drug prevention programs and a 3.7 percent increase for addiction treatment.

"The new budget proposal demonstrates the Obama administration's commitment to a balanced and comprehensive drug strategy," said ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske. "In a time of tight budgets and fiscal restraint, these new investments are targeted at reducing Americans' drug use and the substantial costs associated with the health and social consequences of drug abuse."

"We usually have to go to Capitol Hill to dig ourselves out of the cellar, but this year's that's not the case," said Rob Morrison, executive director of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD). "Some will look at the [increases] and say they're marginal, but looking at the history it's a darn good start."

However, the budget plan also calls for modest increases in spending on domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international programs. So, the bottom line is that the Obama administration is proposing to spend 64 percent of its anti-drug budget on supply reduction efforts and just 36 percent on demand-reduction programs like drug treatment and prevention -- numbers that are virtually indistinguishable from the ratio in the final drug budget produced under the Bush administration.

"I was hoping for large cuts on the supply side, especially after the previous administration allocated at least $1 billion more each to interdiction and source-country programs that accomplished absolutely nothing," said drug budget and policy expert John Carnevale. "This nation must stop blaming source countries for our problems and face the fact that we can do more to reduce drug use by focusing on treatment, prevention, and diversion programs."

Incremental 'Change You Can Believe In'

Carnevale and others thought that Kerlikowske might define 'balance' by moving to equalize spending on the demand and supply sides of the budget, perhaps by shifting funds from overseas programs to domestic treatment and prevention services. The 2011 plan contains no such revolutionary proposals, however.

Kerlikowske said effective drug policy "does not call for an all-or-nothing, false choice between demand reduction and supply reduction. Instead, it must be a balanced, evidence-based approach that blends the benefits of effective demand reduction with effective supply reduction," he said.

Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), said that expectations of radical change should be tempered by the fact that this was Kerlikowske's first crack at crafting a drug strategy. "I hope that they are committed to making some significant changes," said Dean while acknowledging, "Change has been slow so far."

$100 Million More for Treatment, But No New Funds for Block Grant

About $100 million in new funding for treatment programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would be spread over a variety of programs, notably the Second Chance Act, which would receive $20 million more to provide community-based treatment services to ex-offenders.

Also receiving new funds are programs to add new addiction counselors to federal health systems, increase the use of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, the Access to Recovery program ($9.9-million budget increase), and $10 million more for drug courts.

None of the new money would go to the keystone, $1.779-billion Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, however. Also level-funded for FY2010 would be the $30-million Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program, which provides services inside correctional facilities. "It would be nice to see increases, but we're always glad when we don't see cuts," said Morrison, who nonetheless said NASADAD would urge lawmakers in Congress to increase block grant funding.

The full feature article can be accessed at:

Source: — News Feature by Bob Curley - February 5, 2010

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ONDCP Introduces New Newsletter

ONDCP UpdateONDCP Update, is a new monthly newsletter of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The newsletter will be published monthly by ONDCP’s Office of Public Affairs and Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, a new component dedicated to building partnerships with state, local and tribal government leaders, law enforcement officials, substance abuse professionals, and state and national organizations. The newsletter is free and distributed via e-mail, as well as posted online at

The goal of the newsletter is to keep readers informed about ONDCP’s effort to reduce substance abuse, help those recovering from addiction, and disrupt the illegal drug trade. The January debut issue presents articles on the 2010 Drug Control Strategy, a letter from the Director, the vital role of recovery, good news and troubling trends and drug-impaired drivers which can be accessed at:

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New Recovery Month Resources

2010 Webinar Series

2010 Recovery has posted their 2010 schedule for monthly webinars on alcohol and drug addiction including the following:

For more information visit:

New Online Media Newsletter

Once a month Recovery Month will distribute a new online media e-newsletter that provides tips for leveraging new online media tools and platforms for promoting work and activities in addiction treatment. The newsletter will also be posted on the Recovery Month website. It will include information on new tools, tactics to reach new audiences, tips on how to effectively engage audiences online, and other information that will help readers delve into this new and ever-changing landscape.

The February issue of the newsletter can be accessed at:

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DSM-V Draft Includes Major Changes to Addictive Disease Classifications

The first draft of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) eliminates the disease categories for substance abuse and dependence and replaces it with a new "addictions and related disorders" — just one of several major changes to the "Bible" used almost universally to diagnose (and get insurance reimbursement for) behavioral-health problems.

"Eliminating the category of dependence will better differentiate between the compulsive drug-seeking behavior of addiction and normal responses of tolerance and withdrawal that some patients experience when using prescribed medications that affect the central nervous system," the APA explained in a Feb. 10 press release.

"The term dependence is misleading, because people confuse it with addiction, when in fact the tolerance and withdrawal patients experience are very normal responses to prescribed medications that affect the central nervous system," said Charles O'Brien, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the APA's DSM Substance-Related Disorders Work Group. "On the other hand, addiction is compulsive drug- seeking behavior which is quite different. We hope that this new classification will help end this wide-spread misunderstanding."

The new category for addictive diseases would include a variety of "substance-use disorders" broken down by drug type, such as "cannabis-use disorder" and "alcohol-use disorder." Diagnostic criteria for these disorders in DSM-V would remain "very similar" to those found in the current DSM-IV, according to APA. However, the symptom of "drug craving" would be added to the criteria, while a symptom that referred to "problems with law enforcement" would be eliminated "because of cultural considerations that make the criteria difficult to apply internationally," APA said.

Also new to the DSM-V are diagnostic criteria for "cannabis withdrawal," which the APA says is caused by "cessation of cannabis use that has been heavy and prolonged," results in "clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning," and is characterized by at least three of these symptoms: irritability, anger or aggression; nervousness or anxiety; sleep difficulties (insomnia); decreased appetite or weight loss; restlessness; depressed mood; and or physical symptoms such as stomach pain, shakiness or tremors, sweating, fever, chills, and headache.

Battle Over 'Addiction' and 'Dependence'

The APA has gone back and forth between use of the terms "addiction" and "dependence" to describe alcohol and other drug problems, noted researcher Stanton Peele, Ph.D. "Every book I've written has the word "addiction" in the title, so I'm glad the term will now be recognized," wrote Peele in the Huffington Post on Feb. 11. "But the change back may make us wonder whether we will have to reconsider every twenty years or so whether it is more beneficial or harmful to use a word loaded with cultural meanings ("addiction"), or a more neutral term ("dependence")."

In fact, "dependence" made it into the DSM-IV by just a single vote, O'Brien noted in a May 2006 editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry co-authored by Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and T-K Li, M.D., then-head of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"Experience over the past two decades has demonstrated that this decision was a serious mistake," the trio wrote. "The term 'dependence' has traditionally been used to describe 'physical dependence,' which refers to the adaptations that result in withdrawal symptoms when drugs, such as alcohol and heroin, are discontinued. Physical dependence is also observed with certain psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants and beta-blockers. However, the adaptations associated with drug withdrawal are distinct from the adaptations that result in addiction, which refers to the loss of control over the intense urges to take the drug even at the expense of adverse consequences."

Comments Deadline: April 20

APA is accepting public comments on the DSM-V revisions until April 20. "This is the first complete revision of the DSM since 1994," said Volkow in a Feb. 11 letter to addiction professionals. "... In light of the advances in research on substance abuse and addiction since the last revision, many suggested changes have been proposed in this revision. Therefore, this is an important opportunity to offer your comments on the new criteria."

All of the proposed changes and information about submitting comments can be found on the DSM-V website.

Source: — News Feature by Bob Curley — February 12, 2010

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All facts and opinions are those of the sources cited. News reports may have been edited for length and/or modified for clarity without altering essential data as originally published.

Addiction Treatment Forum and its associates do not endorse any medications, products, or treatments described, mentioned, or discussed in any of the sources referenced. Nor are any representations made concerning efficacy, appropriateness, or suitability of any such products or treatments. This News Update is made possible by an educational grant from Covidien Mallinckrodt, St. Louis, MO, a manufacturer of methadone and naltrexone.

In view of the possibility of human error or advances in medical knowledge, Addiction Treatment Forum and its associates do not warrant the information contained in the above news updates is in every respect accurate or complete, and they are not responsible nor liable for any errors or omissions that may be found in such information or for results obtained from use of such information.