Participants. A non-Federal, nonadvocate, 12-member panel representing the fields of psychology, psychiatry, behavioral medicine, family medicine, drug abuse, epidemiology, and the public. In addition, 25 experts from these same fields presented data to the panel and a conference audience of 600.
Evidence. The literature was searched through Medline and an extensive bibliography of references was provided to the panel and the conference audience. Experts prepared abstracts with relevant citations from the literature. Scientific evidence was given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience.
Consensus Process. The panel, answering predefined questions, developed their conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement that was read in its entirety and circulated to the experts and the audience for comment. Thereafter, the panel resolved conflicting recommendations and released a revised statement at the end of the conference. The panel finalized the revisions within a few weeks after the conference. The draft statement was made available on the World Wide Web immediately following its release at the conference and was updated with the panel's final revisions.
Conclusions. Opiate dependence is a brain-related medical disorder that can be effectively treated with significant benefits for the patient and society, and society must make a commitment to offer effective treatment for opiate dependence to all who need it. All opiate-dependent persons under legal supervision should have access to methadone maintenance therapy, and the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Department of Justice should take the necessary steps to implement this recommendation. There is a need for improved training for physicians and other health care professionals and in medical schools in the diagnosis and treatment of opiate dependence. The unnecessary regulations of methadone maintenance therapy and other long-acting opiate agonist treatment programs should be reduced, and coverage for these programs should be a required benefit in public and private insurance programs.
In the United States, prior to 1914, it was relatively common for private physicians to treat opiate-dependent patients in their practices by prescribing narcotic medications. While the passage of the Harrison Act did not prohibit the prescribing of a narcotic by a physician to treat an addicted patient, this practice was viewed as problematic by Treasury officials