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The Methadone Prison
Is Methadone A Treatment?
When speaking to groups or on the radio, we are often asked for our opinion of methadone, a dangerous opioid promoted as an acceptable solution for people who have been addicted to heroin, OxyContin or other opioids.
We respond that, logically, the best treatment for heroin, OxyContin or other opioid addiction is to help them be drug free. Continuing their addiction but just switching to a dangerous drug that Congress and the FDA has said is legal does not get them closer to being drug-free.
For most people, methadone “treatment” is really a trap every bit as terrible as heroin or OxyContin addiction. Putting people on methadone is keeping them in a prison where they are not confined by walls but by their dependence on the drug.
The questioner often then includes that they know people who were in and out of jail for criminal acts when they were on heroin but are now on methadone and actually have a job. Our response is that they may be living a better life than when they were addicted to heroin or OxyContin, but this life is nothing compared to the life they can have if they are withdrawn from methadone and are drug free.
But getting off methadone is not that easy. Our patients who were taking over 100 milligrams of methadone a day came to Novus because we are one of the few facilities that can help them detox from their high dose methadone addiction. Prior to learning about Novus, almost all of these patients had:
- Decided that they had to get off methadone because it was ruining their lives;
- Tried to taper off methadone on their own but failed;
- Contacted other detox facilities who were unwilling to accept them or who were unable to assure them that they would not be in constant pain from the withdrawal;
- Finally decided that there was no way to withdraw from methadone because of the pain and that they would be "lifers" and never able to get off methadone.
WHAT IS LIFE ON METHADONE ADDICTION LIKE?
It is interesting that most people who believe methadone addiction is an acceptable way of dealing with heroin, OxyContin or other opioid addiction don’t have any reality of what life on methadone is like. Many have forgotten to take medicine and had no ill effect from it. However, not getting a methadone dose on time can put a person into painful withdrawal. And the clinics are often located many miles away and are only open for a few hours in the morning or afternoon.
We have asked our patients about life on methadone. Here are some of the things that we were told about their life:
- You get up early to drive to a methadone clinic that is often in a less desirable part of town;
- You stand in line with a variety of people, some who haven’t bathed in weeks and some wearing business suits;
- You make up excuses about why you can’t leave town for a few days when your friends ask you to go with them;
- You find your kids getting upset with you because you can never take off for a few days to take them camping or to an amusement park in another town;
- You have less and less energy;
- You look in the mirror and see someone that looks much older than your friends of the same age;
- You worry that your libido is less and less;
- You get Viagra but it doesn’t seem to help;
- You don’t get high anymore on methadone, you just hope you don’t get sick but sometimes you get sick even with the methadone;
- You take a benzodiazepine like Xanax or drink to get a “buzz” and this may cause an overdose;
- You feel scooped out or hollow inside;
- You frequently have colds, catch everything going around and are sick for longer than your friends or family members who catch the flu or a cold;
- You have trouble getting any restful sleep at night no matter how long you are in bed;
- You find yourself less and less able to concentrate and start to have trouble remembering the names of people you have known for years;
- You have trouble performing your job;
- You notice your muscles are getting more flabby but you don’t feel like exercising;
- You worry that your car won’t start and you will miss your dose;
- You worry that there is an accident on the road and you won’t get to the clinic in time;
- You find yourself starting to nod off during the day;
- You can’t leave town for a vacation;
- You worry about being stopped for a traffic violation that keeps you from arriving at the clinic in time for your dose;
- You worry about being too sick to drive to get your dose;
- You worry about being in an accident that will leave you unconscious and starting to go through withdrawals in the hospital;
- You see that your spouse or significant other is more and more impatient and often wants to terminate the relationship;
- You find that the only people who really understand you are people who are also on methadone or other drugs;
- You really feel bad when you realize that you are paying $75-$100 per week to feel like this;
- You have concluded that the only escape from methadone is death.
The list of things we have been told could continue for another page at least. Does this sound like a life that you would wish on anyone?
METHADONE WITHDRAWAL — FACT OR FANTASY?
One of our patients was very excited that he had withdrawn from over 200 milligrams of methadone in fourteen days. He wanted to share this with others so he posted his success at a methadone internet chat room. The other chat room members could not believe that anyone could come off high doses of methadone in that short a period and not be so sick that they couldn’t move. Some of these people actually criticized him for posting a lie that just gave some gullible people false hope.
Some accuse me of attacking the people who take methadone. Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
Addicting people to a terrible opioid like methadone is “an unhealthy state of things.” We should demand that society not warehouse these people but instead assist them to become drug free. We have to tell them that there is a way to escape the methadone prison to which society has sent them. Our patients are able to escape from their methadone prison. All it takes is their decision and we will do the rest.
NOTE: This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine, health care diagnosis or treatment, or (iii) the creation of a physician patient or clinical relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or that this information may be useful to you or others, please consult with your health care provider before applying any information from our articles to your personal situation or to the personal situation of others.
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- More About Methadone Recovery
- Dangers of Methadone for Pain
- Methadone Effects
- Withdrawal Symptoms
- More on Methadone Find Out If Your Insurance Will Pay
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- What Will It Cost?
- Symptoms of Withdrawal
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