Interim Methadone Maintenance (IM)

Program Goals/Services Provided

Interim Methadone Maintenance (IM) is a substance abuse treatment approach that serves as a transition for patients who are waiting to be placed in a comprehensive methadone treatment program (MTP). IM works by providing a safe way to engage clients, curb opiate craving, and prevent opiate withdrawal symptoms. Such interim programs provide physical examinations and education about HIV prevention, but do not provide the full range of counseling and social services of MTPs, making them less expensive than MTPs. The goals of IM programs are to encourage patients to enroll in MTPs, reduce drug use, and reduce crime resulting from the need to satisfy opiate addiction.

Target Population/Eligibility

IM programs were started—and continue to exist—because of the extremely long waiting periods for treatment, inadequate funding, and regulations that increase the costs associated with MTPs. MTPs have consistently demonstrated their effectiveness in academic and medical research; however, treatment capacity remains inadequate, resulting in long waiting lists. Starting in 1993, U.S. Federal regulations allowed daily doses of methadone under direct supervision and emergency counseling for up to 120 days to patients on waiting lists for MTPs.

Intervention ID

26 to 55


Study 1

Entry Into Comprehensive Methadone Treatment Program

Schwartz and colleagues (2007) reported that 75.9 percent of interim methadone maintenance participants entered into a comprehensive methadone treatment program, compared to only 20.8 percent of those in the waitlist control group.


Drug Use

At baseline, both treatment and control groups showed the same high rate of heroin use in urine analysis. Significant differences were found at the 4-month follow up, however: The treatment group reported using heroin a mean of about 4 days, while the waitlist control group reported using heroin about 26 days. In addition, 56.6 percent of treatment group participants showed positive results for heroin, compared to 79.2 percent of the waitlist control group.


In terms of cocaine use, there were no significant differences between treatment and control group participants, at either baseline or at the 4-month follow up.


Finally, both treatment and control groups showed the same level of alcohol use at baseline. At the 4-month follow up, the treatment group reported drinking to intoxication a mean of 4 days out of the past month. The waitlist control group reported drinking to intoxication a mean of about 8 days, a significant difference.



At baseline, there was no difference in crime rate between the treatment and control groups. However, self-reported money spent on drugs and illegal income obtained was significantly different between the groups. At the 4-month follow-up, the treatment group reported spending a mean of $76 on drugs and receiving $36 in illegal income, compared to the control group’s mean spending of $560 on drugs and illegal income of $412.

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