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article imageOp-Ed: Does methadone work to curb addition?

By Nancy Houser     Jan 12, 2012 in Health
Doling out daily doses of methadone to heroin addicts frustrates "Why Methadone Doesn't Work" author Peter Dawson. He feels the root causes of addiction should be handled instead of using methadone as a crutch, as an easy way out.
However, methadone is highly addictive, way more so than street drugs. To think that methadone would curb addicts simply by removing the drug cravings by replacing it with another does not make sense. The main difference is one is legal and the other is not, with the legal methadone making it more bearable for drug addicts to survive and remove themselves from a corrupt and dangerous environment. But, they are just as dependent on the legal drug---just safer.
The article was printed online in the Guardian on January 10, 2012. Addicts take prescription methadone as part of their recovery, with many pharmacies preparing the drug first thing in the mornings for the arrival of the addicts.
A method that has been used for 20 years, supervised daily prescriptions are part of the "harm reduction philosophy" in a driven-heroin-addiction treatment program. According to the Guardian, pharmacies that offer the prescription generic methadone see addicts more often than their health professionals.
Visiting an Addict Forum for users of Liquid Methadone
A sticky mixture that is thick and overpowering, addicts who take it daily have to wash it down with water to prevent their teeth from rotting out. At an opium forum of addicts who are on liquid methadone, the liquid methadone was described as tasting like NyQuil but stronger and more bitter. What is currently being used is a bitter cherry methadone. One individual said when he was given his dose in a clinic, they barely gave him any water with it...which caused him difficulty in getting it down. The less water, the more bitter the taste.
"I've never had Nyquil but the cherry methadone is fairly bitter, especially if it isn't watered down. There is one nurse at my clinic that barely spits water in my dose and it's hard to swallow."
The forum also talked about using methadone wafers and dipping them into water; "These doses are from Indiana I think and it is the cherry suspension...10mg per ml." One man described being on methadone treatment for six years, and felt he was getting immune to the effects of the treatment. This made me wonder if the methadone actually worked in the long-run, and wondering if Peter Dawson was right in his article.
Many times nurses add water to the mixture that will be going home with addicts that day. Also, the addicts described the methadone as coming straight from the bottle at 10mg/ml with other clinics watering them down before pouring the dose for the patient. It is supposed to prevent IV use that way.
Another forum discussed increasing the methadone dosage for an individual that needed more support, concerned on how it would affect the ability of his bowels to move and how much it would compromised them. Others warned him of the addiction to methadone, yet understanding how extremely painful it was to try and stay away. This would be a good reason for the use of the methadone, to keep the patient's pain level under control for heroin or opium withdrawal. The original patient remarked, "Not getting anywhere, so far. 10 mg twice a day has no effect on pains (no surprise) and seems to aggravate the numbness in my right arm." Seems to be a daily struggle for many.
Methadone Maintenance Treatment
Methadone Maintenance Treatment, or MMT, is referred to as a form of "opioid replacement therapy." By taking the methadone on a daily basis, the patient is supposed to improve their health and social life, while being less tempted to use illicit opiates and criminal activity to obtain it.
When the addict enrolls in a methadone maintenance program, they are less apt to obtain infectious diseases from opiate injection (HIV or hepatitis). "The principal effects of methadone maintenance are to relieve narcotic craving, suppress the abstinence syndrome, and block the euphoric effects associated with opiates," according to Wikipedia.
Many people who have opium or heroin dependency develop a methadone dependency over time, which to me would defeat the purpose of the treatment. People with addictive personalities are predisposed to addictions, simply replacing the illegal drug with a legal one. The NY Times reports that people with addictions have significant personality factors.
Psychology of an addict
The author of the Guardian article wrote, "Those politicians who, in the face of all contrary evidence, stubbornly see the drugs as the problem are no less misguided than the addicts who see drugs as the solution. By the end of the afternoon I have dispensed the gallon of methadone to 33 addicts and supplied three more with clean needles. They should all be back after the weekend."
This is painful to hear, almost as much as it would be for Peter Dawson to be servicing a never-ending line of addicts who cannot tear themselves from the addict line-up of pain and despair. Methadone can curb the effects of addiction, but only until it wears off. a drug, it needs to be increased again and again to ease the body's pain level all over again. Eventually, it shuts down the system.
The NY Times also reported of a study by Alan R. Lang, a psychology professor at Florida State University, discovering similar features in addicts regarding their personality or background - a lack of self-esteem, marked depression or anxiety, physical or sexual abuse in childhood, and sharply conflicting parental expectations.
- Impulsive behavior
- Difficulty in delaying gratification
- An antisocial personality
- Disposition toward sensation seeking
- A sense of social alienation
- A general tolerance for deviance
- A sense of heightened stress
- Excessive activities
For heroin or opium addicts, to use methadone as a treatment can go on for years, the same as an addiction. It is extremely addictive as a synthetic opiate. In fact, it is more addictive then heroin, and more difficult to withdraw from, according to the Guardian article. However, by using methadon a person does not need to inject with dirty needles and the body's digestive system tolerates it. But people keep taking it until its effects wear off, than back to the streets they go to seek some form of relief from the ravages of withdrawal. Obviously, the methadone treatment is not much better than using heroin, except it is legal and easier on the body.
According to Heroin Addiction, "As an opiate, regular use of methadone causes physical dependency – if you’ve been using it regularly (prescribed or not) once you stop you will experience a withdrawal. The physical changes due to the drug are similar to other opiates (like heroin); suppressed cough reflex, contracted pupils, drowsiness and constipation. Some methadone users feel sick when they first use the drug. If you are a woman using methadone you may not have regular periods – but you are still able to conceive. Methadone is a long-acting opioid; it has an effect for up to 36 hours (if you are using methadone you will not withdraw for this period) and can remain in your body for several days.
NOTE: Worldwide, the UN estimates there are more than 50 million regular users of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs." Global users of diacetylmorphine are estimated at between 15.16 million and 21.13 million people aged 15–64. (Wikipedia)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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