Saturday, 31 August 2013
The Truth About Methadone
This is a commentary that I wrote for today's (August 31) Guardian newspaper. Education is an important part of changing minds and bringing about change for the greater good. I am so grateful to the Guardian for continuing to print my addiction-related commentaries. Thank you!
The truth about methadone
By Rose Barbour
How sad it was to read the story of a young man named Adam who is being harassed at his place of employment because of the medical treatment that he is receiving under a doctor’s care (Methadone patient faces discrimination, The Guardian, August 17, 2013).
In the article, Dr. Don Ling, medical director for the methadone program in P.E.I., mentions that their clients also face negative reactions within the health care system. Considering that the Island is in the midst of a prescription drug (opioid) epidemic, I find all of this very disheartening, but not surprising. How will we ever get this problem under control if we balk at the treatment options that are available?
I believe these types of reactions come from a lack of understanding about methadone. To help shed some light, I have looked to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health, for information.
CAMH considers methadone to be one of the most effective treatments currently available for opioid addiction. As a long-acting opioid medication, methadone prevents withdrawal and reduces or eliminates drug cravings. When individuals are freed from the constant drug seeking caused by withdrawals and cravings, and the subsequent dangers around finding and using drugs (i.e. death, disease, crime), we all benefit.
Methadone is medically safe when prescribed and monitored by a doctor. With proper doses, clients feel normal, not high. As part of a methadone program, individuals also receive the medical and social support they need to stabilize and improve their lives.
With the positive benefits of methadone, we should support not condemn those who find recovery with it. One of the problems is that there are many myths about methadone that keep it stigmatized, the most prevalent and damaging is the myth that people on methadone are still addicts, even if they don’t use any other drugs.
CAMH clarifies that people who take methadone as a treatment for opioid dependence are no more addicts than are people who take insulin as a treatment for diabetes. Methadone is a medication that allows one to live a normal life, work, go to school, or care for their children.
As with other medications, methadone also comes with risks. When not used properly, or when mixed with other substances, methadone can be deadly. Some people also sell their methadone, which can end up in the hands of our loved ones. While these risks are very scary, we have to remember that other prescription medications come with similar risks. We need to trust that doctors will properly monitor their clients and adjust their treatment plans as necessary to minimize any potential risks.
Many people firmly believe and some are very vocal that abstinence-based programs like NA are the only way to overcome addiction. We cannot rely on beliefs when it comes to treatment. With a prescription drug epidemic, the stakes are too high. This belief also causes stigma for Methadone clients who are on a different path to recovery.
There is more than one way to recovery. Many people have found the motivation they needed in NA (or other 12-step groups). Many have not. Many have found their motivation in methadone programs. Many have not. This is because what works to motivate one person will not work for another. People are very complex. We each have different needs and respond to different things.
One size does not fit all in addiction treatment. We should embrace every option available so that people like Adam will have the best chance to find recovery and live a normal life. Overcoming addiction is very hard. For many individuals, death was the only way out of it. This doesn’t have to be (at least not without providing every opportunity to recover). With the proper support and resources in place, and by showing compassion toward those who are battling addiction, we can make a difference.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my blog at shadowsinpei.blogspot.ca.
- Rose Barbour of Charlottetown has researched addiction, maintains a blog, participates in drug awareness programs and has spoken publicly on the subject of addiction.
Here is the link to the article: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-08-31/article-3370257/The-truth-about-methadone/1