Survey of injectable methadone prescribing in general practice in England and Wales

Beaumont, B; (2001) Survey of injectable methadone prescribing in general practice in England and Wales. The International journal on drug policy, 12. pp. 91-101. ISSN 0955-3959 DOI:

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Little is known about the extent and conduct of general practice prescribing of injectable methadone to opiate users in England and Wales. A postal questionnaire survey of general practitioners (GPs) was conducted in 1999 to ascertain how many GPs were prescribing injectable methadone, to describe their prescribing practices and to explore their perceptions of the service they provided. Four hundred and seven GP practices in 77 out of 105 health authorities were apparently prescribing injectable methadone. The difficulties in identifying, and obtaining a response from, GPs prescribing injectable methadone are discussed. Analysis of 93 usable returned questionnaires showed a range of GP characteristics and experience. The GPs were treating 211 patients with injectable methadone and a further 2003 patients with oral methadone. Prescribing practice and monitoring arrangements did not always follow national guidelines. A minority of GPs had received training in the management of drug dependency. They were most likely to decide to prescribe injectable treatment on the recommendation of a specialist drug agency, and to discontinue prescribing if there was a suspicion of diversion of prescribed ampoules. Although significant numbers of GPs felt unsure about their skills and the support available to them, most appeared to be managing their patients thoughtfully and with appropriate outcomes in mind. Recent policy documents from the Department of Health and the Home Office have questioned the place of injectable methadone in the treatment of opiate misuse, particularly in a general practice setting. A Home Office licence will shortly be required to prescribe injectable methadone. This survey suggests a minority of GPs would apply for such a licence. More research into the effectiveness of injectable methadone treatment in a range of settings is needed before conclusions can be drawn about the appropriateness of providing this treatment in general practice.

Item Type: Article
PubMed ID: 11275506


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