Clinical trials show that opioid agonist therapy (OAT) with methadone or buprenorphine is more effective than behavioral treatments.

Consistent with clinical trials and previous economic analyses, we find that treatment of opioid addiction with methadone or buprenorphine is more effective and less costly than most behavioral health treatment without OAT. These findings indicate that opioid agonist therapy is efficient and effective at the system level as well as in more controlled settings. Our analysis also underlines the importance of keeping patients engaged in treatment, particularly during early episodes. As Medicaid programs expand to include larger populations of individuals at risk of addiction, we see no reasons to restrict access to these effective treatments from the perspective of patient outcomes or of public spending. Indeed, our findings strongly suggest that restrictive state policies will lead to less effective treatment for the growing number of individuals with opioid addiction and higher healthcare costs for taxpayers.

To see the full paper, "Risk Factors for Relapse and Higher Costs Among Medicaid Members with Opioid Dependence or Abuse: Opioid Agonists, Comorbidities, and Treatment History," in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, visit: