In 1937, scientists in Germany developed the synthetic medication, methadone, to help fight against the opium shortage brought on by the Allied nations against Germany in World War II. After the war, any patents for this compound were confiscated by the United States and methadone was soon manufactured by Eli Lilly Co for medical purposes. It was studied through multiple clinics in New York City and quickly became one of the primary avenues for heroin treatment. It continues to be a primary treatment option for many patients in that it provides relief from withdrawal symptoms of heroin or painkillers and also decreases or eliminates cravings.
The US government has been regulating the treatment with methadone since its inception in the 1940’s. This structured treatment provides strong benefits for some, but also limitations for other patients seeking outpatient resources for recovery. Preliminary studies from Johns Hopkins University in 1995 demonstrated that the medication Suboxone helped patients cut down their use of heroin (Johnson 1995). In 2006, Suboxone was approved for the treatment of opioid dependence by the Food and Drug Administration. This medication, composed of the compounds buprenorphine and naloxone, is similar to methadone in that it treats the withdrawal and cravings of stopping heroin or painkillers. Unlike methadone, it is available as an office-based approach to opioid treatment.
Both of these medications have shown statistically significant retention rates for treatment and decreased use of heroin (Mattick 2008). Each medication is safe for extended treatment and has shown best results in the form of maintenance, rather than detoxification, treatment.