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Methadone maintenance treatment programme reduces criminal activity and improves social well-being of drug users in China: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Hua-Min Sun1,
  2. Xiao-Yan Li1,
  3. Eric P F Chow2,3,4,
  4. Tong Li1,
  5. Yun Xian1,
  6. Yi-Hua Lu1,
  7. Tian Tian1,
  8. Xun Zhuang1,
  9. Lei Zhang1,2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Nantong University, Jiangsu, China
  2. 2The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Central Clinical School, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Lei Zhang, The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia; lzhang{at} and Xun Zhuang, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Nantong University. Nantong 226019, Jiangsu, China; ntzhuang{at}


Objective Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) has been implemented in China since 2004 and has expanded into a nationwide programme. This study aims to evaluate changes in social functioning, family relations and drug-related criminal behaviour among MMT clients in China.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods Both English and Chinese literature databases, including PubMed, Chongqing VIP Chinese Science and Technology Journals Database (CQVIP), China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and Wanfang Data, were comprehensively searched over the period 2004–2014 for studied indicators. Study selection, quality assessment and data extraction were conducted according to the PRISMA (preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses) Statement. Meta-analyses were conducted using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis Biostat software.

Results Thirty-eight articles were included in this review (1 in English and 37 in Chinese). The self-reported arrest rate decreased from 13.1% (95% CI 9.1% to 18.5%) at baseline to 3.4% (95% CI 1.5% to 7.7%) and 4.3% (95% CI 1.6% to 11.4%) after 6 and 12 months of MMT intervention, respectively. The rate of drug selling decreased from 7.6% (95% CI 3.8% to 14.8%) at baseline to 1.9% (95% CI 0.6% to 6.2%) and 3.0% (95% CI 1.0% to 8.9%) after 6 and 12 months of intervention, respectively. Similarly, the rates of selling sex for drugs and drug-related crime decreased from 5.3% (95% CI 2.4% to 11.1%) and 9.9% (95% CI 6.8% to 14.2%) at baseline to 1.1% (95% CI 0.5% to 2.3%) and 3.4% (95% CI 2.5% to 4.5%) at 6 months, then to 0.8% (95% CI 0.3% to 1.9%) and 3.4% (95% CI 0.8% to 13.1%) at 12 months after treatment initiation, respectively. In contrast, the rate of employment of clients and the proportion of clients having a good relationship with their family increased substantially from 26.4% (95% CI 22.9% to 30.1%) and 37.9% (95% CI 32.0% to 44.2%) to 41.6% (95% CI 36.6% to 48.0%) and 59.6% (95% CI 48.1% to 70.2%) at 6 months, then to 59.8% (95% CI 52.4% to 66.8%) and 75.0% (95% CI 69.0% to 80.2%) at 12 months after treatment initiation, respectively.

Conclusions MMT has significantly reduced criminal activity, and improved employment rate and social well-being, of clients of the MMT programme. MMT is an effective measure to help drug users to resume societal and familial functions in China.


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