OBJECTIVES: To document changes in prescribing practice at a specialized substance misuse service in the UK occurring since the introduction of the 1999 UK National Guidelines on the management of drug misuse, and to explore a possible link between the length of time spent in methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) and the dosage prescribed., METHODS: A retrospective analysis of a computerized prescription database between 1996 and 2002 obtained from Sheffield Care Trust Substance Misuse Service was performed. The relationship between various measures of dosage and the length of time spent in MMT was investigated., RESULTS: In accordance with the 1999 UK National Guidelines, the proportion of injectable methadone prescribed decreased from 22% to 16%. This was offset by an increase in the prescribing of methadone elixir from 74% to 79%. The 'maximum dose' of methadone prescribed correlated significantly with patient retention, explaining 14% of the variation in time spent in MMT., CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that publication of the UK National Guidelines had a measurable effect on prescribing practice at the Service. We found that a higher methadone dose is associated with increased patient retention in MMT. However, as only a maximum of 14% of the variation in the length of stay is related to methadone dose, the importance of other aspects of treatment such as counselling and rehabilitation programmes, should be considered for the successful treatment of opioid abusers.
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