"These results indicate that cutting benefits across the board is more likely to have detrimental effects for those most in need," the researchers concluded.
Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University's Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine studied the impact on clients enrolled in methadone maintenance services in Oregon when the state eliminated funding for their treatment in March 2003.
The majority (68%) of those who lost state-paid methadone services chose to pay for treatment on their own.
Of those who began to pay for their own methadone treatment, 66 percent were able to continue paying for the full year.
Some 19 percent of those who attempted to self-pay eventually detoxed from methadone and an additional 15 percent abruptly stopped methadone, indicating that they may have returned to using heroin.
Patients who were forced off methadone tended to have more medical, employment, psychiatric, drug and legal problems than the group that paid for methadone services and the group that retained the benefit.