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For The High Methadone User Who Feels Trapped—There is Now Hope
Methadone, an opioid, was first produced in 1939 at the pharmaceutical laboratories of I.G. Farben in Germany. Named Amidon, and although there is evidence that some testing was done of the drug, there is no evidence that it was widely used by the Germans in World War II because they feared it was too addictive.
After the war, the German patents on Amidon and other drugs were voided and Amidon was tested and released in the United States by Eli Lilly in 1947 as Dolophine. Dolophine was derived from the Latin word dolor (pain) and finis (end). Later Dolophine came to be known as methadone. Originally marketed as a pain reliever, it was not until the 1960’s, when the number of heroin addicts was accelerating and the negative impact on society became widely known, did the idea of converting the heroin addict to a methadone addict become accepted as a treatment procedure.
PROBLEMS OF HEROIN USE
Most people know that heroin users often created many problems for society, for themselves and for their family. In order to purchase their heroin, many users committed crimes—like robbery, prostitution and even murder. Other heroin users were spreading sexually transmitted diseases and also HIV from their contaminated needles.
Many heroin addicts flooded emergency rooms due to overdoses, or because they got a bad batch of heroin, or because they contracted hepatitis or just got very sick.
Because of its short half-life, heroin users are forced to obtain a “fix” every 4-6 hours or they will start experiencing painful withdrawals. (Withdrawal means that the body is craving the endorphins produced by the heroin and this leads to sickness. One of our patients who had experienced it said that it was ten times worse than the worst flu they ever had.)
This is one of the reasons why most heroin addicts don’t even attempt to hold down “regular” jobs. Besides, few legitimate jobs provide sufficient income to allow them to pay for their habit.
No one could argue with the idea that heroin addiction is a terrible thing, and that getting people off heroin is a good thing. Having heroin users switch to a drug that they could take orally like cough syrup, that was “legal” and much less expensive, was appealing to many in our society—and to many heroin users who were tired of being addicted to heroin.
In summary, switching heroin users to methadone seemed to provide a solution to society’s problems:
- Methadone has a much longer half life than heroin (half-life is the amount of time before half of a drug taken is excreted from the body), so a person can normally be given one dose of methadone and this would last until the next day.
- Methadone doesn’t cost $300 a day but only $300 a month and often this can be paid by a government program.
- Heroin addicts no longer have to participate in illegal activities to obtain their drugs.
- Heroin addicts are no longer using needles to inject heroin and this will reduce the spread of many diseases.
- Heroin addicts can switch to methadone and then reduce their dosage of methadone until they are completely off methadone.
- People in society no longer have to feel guilty about not addressing the heroin addiction problem because the methadone advocates promoted the use of methadone as a step toward helping the addict stop taking drugs of any kind.
However, what was promised about methadone was not delivered. We now know these facts about methadone:
- A 1999 study done at the University of London found that methadone actually increased the cravings for heroin. Many methadone users supplement their “high” with other illegal drugs like prescription narcotics or even heroin. (Illegal drug dealers now can be found around these clinics because business is brisk.)
- Most methadone users are forced to come to the methadone clinics and wait in long lines every day or at least once a week.
- Because the number of methadone clinics is limited by law, some methadone users have to drive 50-80 miles a day and when they arrive, stand in line for an hour or more to get their methadone dose that will keep them from going into withdrawal, and then they go to work.
- The first thing a methadone addict often must do when considering moving is not check on the schools for their children but on the location of the nearest methadone clinic.
- Almost all of the people who switched to methadone from heroin have seen the amount of their daily methadone dose increase—to 100 milligrams or even much higher. In most cases the user is now taking a much higher dosage of methadone than the equivalent amount of heroin that they were on.
- Almost none of these former heroin addicts have been able to wean themselves off methadone. (Some complain that the methadone clinics don’t help their clients wean off. Apparently many clinics tell the methadone addict who is trying to taper down but experiences some withdrawal symptoms that if they are experiencing any discomfort, then the dose should be increased back to where it was. Some clinics will not taper the methadone addict down to lower dosages even if the addict wants to. They apparently tell people that “They are addicts and will always have to take methadone. But this is not too surprising—the methadone clinics only stay in business if their clients remain addicted.)
- Even if the methadone addict who is now taking 40 to 240 milligrams of methadone decides that he or she has to stop, there are few rehabilitation centers that will accept people on more than 40 milligrams per day, so the person has to either face serious withdrawal pains, find one of the few medical detox centers that will accept high dosage methadone users, or stay on methadone.
- The real truth is that switching an addict to a different addiction never really made sense. The real solution was and will always be to help the addict become drug-free.
In a classic example of “the end justifies the means”, the FDA was persuaded that even though heroin was illegal, it was ok for methadone, a drug that is more addictive and creates many of the same effects, to be legal.
Instead of rewarding criminals who smuggled heroin into the country, the FDA chose to reward drug manufacturers and people who run methadone clinics so that the same people could continue to be addicted.
There is a heated political debate over whether we should legalize drugs and take the profits away from the criminals. Yet we have already cut out the illegal dealers by giving the profits to drug companies and to methadone clinics—which are limited in number and thus assures their profitability. The advocates of substituting methadone for heroin are now aware that methadone is often more addictive than heroin.
No responsible person can dispute the fact that as the doses of opioids like methadone or oxycodone increase, people’s cognitive abilities and their reaction times are adversely affected more and more. They can also experience other side effects such as being more susceptible to illnesses.
Perhaps the saddest part of the methadone experiment is that our society encourages these former heroin addicts to take more and more methadone, since it costs the same if the dose is 10 milligrams or 200 milligrams.
Every time a methadone addict gets clean, the only groups that lose are the drug companies that produce methadone and the methadone clinics who lose money. The rest of society wins and the former methadone user wins most of all.
THE SOLUTION—MEDICAL DETOX AND REHAB
Regardless of the reason that someone began using methadone, there are few reasons why methadone users would not benefit if they could stop having to use methadone and not have the cravings to use opioids.
There are many effective rehabilitation facilities that are successful in helping people become drug-free. These rehabilitation facilities are located all over the world. However, despite the desire of these rehabilitation facilities to help, few if any will accept someone on a dose of methadone over 40 milligrams per day. Most require that the methadone user go to a medical detox center to get off methadone completely before they will accept them.
Unfortunately, there are very few medical detox facilities that will accept a methadone patient taking over 40 milligrams a day of methadone. Some facilities that do accept the patients simply put them in a room and give them some drugs that help alleviate some of the pain, but the patient has some very difficult withdrawal symptoms and often leaves the detox center before completing their withdrawal. Then they go back to the methadone clinic and the despair grows even more.
Most methadone users who have decided to seek help have tried to withdraw or at least cut down their dose of methadone in the past. Almost all of these people were unsuccessful because they began experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms and stopped their taper. Many of the methadone users ended up taking more methadone than they were taking when they started trying to withdraw, and their despair of ever being free of their methadone habit increased.
The solution is to locate a medical detox center that will assist a person on a high daily dose of methadone to complete their withdrawal comfortably, safely and more quickly from the drug.
Novus Medical Detox Center has developed a protocol that allows most high dosage methadone users to step down from methadone and be completely off all opioids in under two weeks. The highest methadone case that Novus Medical Detox Center handled was in excess of 240 milligrams per day, and we have also helped people on over 300 milligrams of oxycodone detox in under two weeks.
Once they have completed their withdrawal at Novus Medical Detox Center, the former methadone addict can go to a rehabilitation facility and achieve their dream—being drug-free. The former methadone user wins and we all win.
When some of his supporters in the Civil Rights movement were expressing their reluctance to continue the struggle because they didn’t see that things were really changing, Martin Luther King, Jr. said this, “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”
Many methadone users still have the dream of being off methadone and being drug-free. At Novus Medical Detox Center we have the dream of helping them. There is hope—Novus Medical Detox Center can and will help a person be free of methadone and able to take the next step, going to a rehabilitation program, so they can achieve their dream of being drug-free.
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