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New Narcotic Regulations Could Reduce Need For Methadone Detox
A reduction in the soaring numbers of people seeking effective methadone detox — the first step in true methadone drug rehabilitation — might be the welcome results of new regulations expected to be introduced later this year by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The planned regulations will restrict physicians’ rights to prescribe the 24 most addictive and dangerous narcotic painkillers, including brand-names like OxyContin, Dolophine and Duragesic, and their generic versions oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl, along with many more versions of oxycodone, methadone, morphine, hydromorphone and oxymorphone. All are dangerous narcotics, and have been implicated in hundreds of deaths and many thousands of cases of addiction.
The FDA has begun scheduling hearings with drug manufacturers, patient advocate and consumer health groups, and interested members of the public, to begin March 3, 2009. The agency is asking for opinions on just how the new regulations should be implemented. The blame for record numbers of deaths and addictions is being placed on doctors who prescribe narcotics inappropriately, on patients for not following directions, and on the drug companies for marketing the drugs to doctors too aggressively, and in some cases, like Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin, even illegally.
One of the most dangerous prescription painkillers, the time-release narcotic OxyContin, has been cited as a causative factor in hundreds of injuries and deaths in the past decade, and thousands of on-going addictions. Called “heroin in a pill” by addicts, and “hillbilly heroin” in the Appalachian region of the south-east, the capsules are crushed, which destroys their time-release properties, and then snorted or injected for an instant and often life-threatening high. Purdue Pharma was fined $634 million last year for misleading the medical profession about the drug’s dangerous addictiveness.
But methadone, also used as a “treatment” for thousands of heroin addicts, is creating havoc among vast numbers of Americans — from teenagers to seniors — who are receiving prescriptions of the drug as a painkiller, becoming addicted, and then discovering that it’s almost impossible to find a treatment center that offers effective methadone detox for even moderate dosage addictions, let alone high-dosage addictions.
And the demand for methadone among legitimate patients has continued to rise in recent years because it is less expensive than most other generic narcotic painkillers, and much less costly than brand names. Doctors, who have been only too happy to write more and more prescriptions, may soon find such practices restricted when the new FDA prescribing regulations come into effect — if they ever do. We can only hope.
Meanwhile, prescription narcotic drug addictions, injuries and deaths — 21 million prescriptions for narcotics in 2007 alone — have continued to soar in spite of numerous Black Box Warnings and Public Health Advisories from the FDA.
But the situation isn’t simple. Many physicians and patient advocates say that chronic pain is actually under-treated in this country. Cutting back on prescriptions would provide no help for people suffering from real chronic pain, and might deprive even more people, such as terminal cancer patients, who really do depend on narcotic painkillers.
The problem is that doctors prescribe narcotics too easily — especially drugs like methadone — for ordinary aches and pains that are better served by alternate therapies that don’t carry the risk of addiction, injury and death. Many such alternate treatment modalities exist, and are perfectly workable for many patients who are brushed off by the family doctor with a prescription for narcotics. Changing from drugs to real help would cut down on addiction, and on people searching for a methadone detox clinic willing to help with recovery.
Alternatives to drugs exist that have decades and centuries of success — if they didn’t work for many people, they would not have been able to persist. Thousands of people every day turn to chiropractic, hi-tech massage and even osteopathy for joint and back pain. Acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, yoga, meditation, homeopathy, even appropriate diet and exercise regimens, are all available, approved, and often very effective — and they don’t lead anyone into addiction and a desperate search for a methadone detox center.
So the real solution is more education for both doctors and the public. Doctors should get better educated about prescribing narcotic painkillers, and all the alternative forms of therapy used in hundreds of other countries around the world. The medical profession needs to take off its blinders and wake up to the harm it’s doing in the name of help, and get free of its devoted slavery to pharmaceuticals.
And the public should be better informed about the real dangers of narcotics, and the benefits of more-benign alternative therapies. Only in this way can we overcome methadone addiction, and addiction to all the prescription narcotic painkillers.
Meanwhile, methadone addicts who seek recovery can turn to special medical drug detox facilities, where innovative methadone detox protocols have been developed that allow treatment for methadone addictions above the 80-mg-a-day dosage levels.
One such facility, Novus Medical Detox in Pasco County, FL, recently announced that it is achieving remarkable successes with high-dose methadone addiction in around two weeks. So such treatment does exist, although it may be hard to find in your area.
If you or someone you know is a higher-dose methadone addict who wants to get off the drug once and for all, start looking today for a medical detox facility that accepts high-dose methadone addicts. The three main questions you want a “YES” answer to are: Does it offer 24/7 medical supervision, is the program designed specifically around each patient’s unique metabolism and health status, and will it accept a high-dose methadone addiction.
Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer that contributes articles on health.
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