Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Methadone abuse a growing killer

When given in small, controlled doses, methadone is a well-documented treatment for heroin addiction. But taken in larger doses, without adequate medical supervision, and in combination with other drugs, methadone can be a drug of abuse, addiction, and death.

A federal government study found that nationwide methadone-related deaths climbed to more than 3,800 in 2004 from about 780 in 1999. Among all narcotic-related deaths in 2004, only cocaine killed more people in the United States than methadone. More from the Baltimore Sun.


Looking to Quit said...

Here is another good resource article looking at methadone:

JunkYardSaint said...

Although Prohibition ended 70 years ago, a new agenda of temperance is alive and well and growing at an incredible rate. With the advent of the internet the development of new citizen groups loosely modeled after "Mothers Against Drunk Driving" we find Methadone maintenance, highly structured with 50 years of proven efficacy, at the center of a new debate. In the media and online a lot of scary claims are being thrown around. The most dangerous of these are not those that are false; we who are reliant on Methadone assisted treatment are quick to debunk those. Rather, the dangerous ones are those that are true or partially true when there is no research clearly showing the cause and effect and that's being implied. These groups are hell bent on perpetuating the myth that methadone is "trading one addiction for another" or that it's a "number #2 killer" all the while portraying the professional working men and women who have found a new life thanks to the availablity of methadone maintenance programs as people who use your tax dollars to feed their addictions and support their immoral lifestyles. They paint a picture of uneducated, mentally unstable street thugs driving recklessly between the clinic and the ghetto, robbing little old ladies and running over unsuspecting school children, a trail of dead bodies in their wake. Noone escapes their judgemental criticism. The Doctors and clinicians are no better than the evil street pusher, derelict doctors out for money randomly give away free drugs at ridiculously high doses, supplying the community with such a glut of free methadone that it's almost forced upon the young innocent children in our communities. How else can these people come to terms with the thought that their loved one may have had some responsibility in their own death?

This newest group, HARMD ("Helping America Reduce Methadone Deaths") is fueled by anger and grief. Their apparent spokesperson, Melissa Zuppardi, constantly makes misleading statements about the number of people killed in methadone related deaths in an apparent effort to exaggerate the extent of the problem and enhance fundraising and legislative lobbying efforts. There is simply no legitimate reason to insist falsely that methadone related deaths are a growing epidemic. In many of these cases methadone is scape-goated, pointed to as the "cause" of death regardless of what other drugs or factors exist.

Methadone maintenance treatment gives those of us who have struggled with opiate and heroin addiction a fighting chance to take our lives back. Some stay on maintenance for the rest of their lives. Others slowly titrate down after years, even decades, of treatment. Studies done by Dr. Kreek and others have shown that Methadone heals damage done by heroin use and when taken over the long term can reinstate endorphin function making it an ideal medicine for some. Granted, there is no shortage of people who are just "out for a high", taking illicit drugs and drinking while on a program and by doing so giving Methadone a bad name. There are some people that go to clinics that struggle with mental health issues, and there are some in the inner cities that are homeless. No, Methadone patients are not all Boy Scouts or always the best of citizens, but most are good people who deserve to use a medication that has worked for us and many before us. To an opiate tolerant person there is no "high" whatsoever when maintained on a theraputic dose, regardless of the "number" of milligrams.

Granted, methadone is NOT for everyone. Just because it doesn't work for you, or because someone wasn't careful doesn't mean you have to put all your energy into a senseless War On Drugs, putting MORE restrictions on a drug that people are using to save their lives with. Neo-prohibition is NOT the answer. Putting the spot-light on the minority of MAT patients that fit the sterotypes only helps to perpetuate the stigma and is misleading. We are also lawyers, teachers, students every day working people. We are your neighbors.

Methadone maintenance treatment has had clear benefits in reducing heroin abuse and its medical and psychosocial complications, it is medically safe to use on a long-term basis, and may have broad benefits for the disrupted biology that is associated with heroin abuse. Do not buy the fake science, pumped up statistics and misleading rhetoric of these groups. Stricter laws will only make treatment less accessable, more lives will be lost, and those loved ones we all have lost will not be brought back.

Bill said...

There has been a huge increase in Methadone related deaths, a 390% increase in deaths from 1999 to 2004. This trend has continued since them, and the studies on where the drug came from was unable to determine if the drug came from a pain doc or a clinic in many instances.

Although there is a place for Methadone in treatment, it is also a dangerous drug. And some unscrupulous clinics do not drug test enough to catch deaths from other drug interactions.

I have read the HARMD pages, and it is important not to miss the points they are making about the need for closer scrutiny into the use of this drug, both as a pain medication and as a substitute medication for opiate dependency.