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Tens of thousands of people dependent on heroin are only the beginning. Because of national policies outlawing the distribution of opiates to addicts, our "narcotics problem" now includes an elaborate traffic in illegal drugs, furthering organized crime; an enormous outlay of government resources to control narcotics "abuse"; and a staggering number of property offenses committed by users needing cash to support their habit.
Although an effective treatment for addiction has long eluded the medical profession, a breakthrough may be near. Recent medical investigations have shown that methadone, a synthetic addicting opiate, is extremely useful in the rehabilitation of heroin addicts. Research begun in January 1964 by Dr. Vincent Dole and Dr. Marie Nyswander at Rockefeller University in New York indicates that methadone, when administered appropriately, blocks the action of heroin, eliminates the drug craving which drives many detoxified addicts to resume heroin addiction, and produces neither euphoria nor other distortion of behavior. Dole and Nyswander see methadone maintenance as a means by which to draw a patient out of the heroin addict community, away from a life of crime, and into a productive social role.
But for a variety of reasons, elements in both the medical and legal communities oppose methadone's use in a maintenance treatment program for addicts. What follows is a review and critical examination of both the medical and legal controversy surrounding methadone maintenance.
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