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Methadone – Substitution Therapy For Drug Addiction


The drug abuse menace has caused a serious medical burden to our country due to the spread of HIV/AIDS and diseases related to high risk behaviours among drug addicts. It is estimated that 300,000 Malaysians will be infected with HIV/AIDS in 2015 if there is no preventive measure and effective intervention taken soon enough to manage this problem.

National Launching of Drug Substitution Therapy With Methadone on 21st October 2005 at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

National Launching of Drug Substitution Therapy With Methadone on 21st October 2005 at Hospital Kuala Lumpur. The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Malaysia has initiated the Drug Substitution Therapy Program since 2005 to prevent infection and the spread of diseases particularly HIV/AIDS caused by sharing of needles among the drug addicts.

Drug substitution therapy intended to substitute stronger drugs such as heroine and morphine with prescribed medication of similar action with lower level of addiction and craving. As example, in Malaysia, Methadone is used in drug substitution therapy program. Methadone can only be prescribed by doctor and monitored under medical supervision together with specific counselling sessions.

How Methadone Acts

Methadone is a synthetic medicine that has the same effect as drugs that are often abused such as heroin or morphine. It is given to control addiction caused by taking heroin or morphine as well as to prevent the withdrawal symptoms of drug addiction. It also reduces the risk of HIV / AIDS because there is no risk of sharing needles. If taken in proper doses, Methadone acts to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms without causing feeling very happy (euphoria), imaginary or loss impact of pain (analgesia).

How To Take

Methadone should be taken daily in liquid form at low concentrations under close monitoring by health professionals. This method is known as Direct Observed Therapy, or DOT. In addition to DOT, RTG Methadone can also be given in Take Away Dose (DBB). However, DBB can only be given to patients who have been stabilized, complied with specified criteria and approved by the doctor.

Direct Observed Therapy -Methadone Dispensing by Pharmacist


The Drug Substitution Therapy Program is assisted with systematic counselling. It is a psychosocial rehabilitation therapy to help the drug addicts to stop altogether further high-risk behaviours for HIV/AIDS as well as improve their health, psychological and social functioning ability.


The following are the positive impacts achieved through the implementation of Drug Substitution Therapy Program:

  • Reduce the risk and spread of diseases caused by sharing needle especially HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

  • Improve health status and quality of life of the drug addicts mainly in terms of the mental and physical vitality.

  • Increase psychosocial function of the drug addicts including the ability to seek and retain their job.

  • Reduce crime activity.

  • Increase their self-confidence to return to the society.

Supportive Organisation

The Drug Substitution Therapy Program is organised by MOH in collaboration with Agensi Anti Dadah Kebangsaan (AADK), Polis Di Raja Malaysia (PDRM), Prison Department, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and universities.

Last reviewed : 23 April 2014
Writer : Nur Hazwani bt. Mohd Noor
Accreditor : Nurul Adha bt. Othman
Reviewer : Nor Aida bt. Sanusi