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Research Summary

Does Methadone Treatment Change Alcohol Consumption?

Patients receiving methadone treatment have a high prevalence of unhealthy alcohol use. The impact of such treatment on alcohol consumption, however, is not clearly understood. Therefore, researchers conducted a systematic review and summarized the findings of 15 relevant studies.

  • Nine studies found no change in alcohol consumption after initiation of or during methadone treatment. Three studies found an increase in alcohol consumption, while another 3 reported a decrease.
  • The studies that found no change or a decrease in alcohol consumption included 3 randomized controlled trials and 7 prospective cohorts. These were stronger methodologically than the studies that found an increase in alcohol consumption, which were all retrospective and subject to recall bias.


Alcohol consumption does not appear to change after initiation of methadone treatment. Regardless, to help prevent additional morbidity, clinicians should conduct screening and offer appropriate treatment for unhealthy alcohol use for all patients receiving methadone. To ensure this occurs, methadone treatment programs should develop cost-effective mechanisms for alcohol screening and intervention.

Julia H. Arnsten, MD, MPH


Srivastava A, Kahan M, Ross S. The effect of methadone maintenance treatment on alcohol consumption: a systematic review. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2007;doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2007.04.001.