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Addiction Help or Methadone? Yes, the Choice is Yours.

Some people don’t want addiction help, and some people do. Yesterday I wrote a blog about methadone. I received numerous comments from people who are on methadone for pain, or because they were addicted to heroin and wanted to overcome that addiction, but when drug rehab and other addiction help treatment didn’t work for them, they turned to methadone.

I don’t see that anyone would have a problem with someone in chronic pain using methadone because they just can’t function without it. I certainly don’t.

However, there are a few things I would like to say to those who are using it to overcome heroin addiction, or addiction to other opiates.

  • Everyone who commented felt strongly that methadone was not a replacement for heroin. Okay, so why is it called Methadone Replacement Therapy – MRT?  Because that’s exactly what it is. Methadone replaces the heroin. If you search “replacement for heroin” on the Internet, methadone is what you will find. So please tell me what would be a better description.
  • One commenter said that methadone is used only for those who have not been successful with drug rehab or other addiction help. That may be the case for those who are on methadone more or less permanently, but it is not the case for people who are taking methadone as a step towards full recovery – i.e. no longer dependent on or addicted to any drug.
  • After receiving the comments, I called several people connected to rehab and detox facilities to do an informal survey. What I learned from that survey was that between 40% and 60% of the people who want to get off methadone are also taking benzodiazepines. Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzo. Whether they get it from a methadone clinic or not doesn’t seem relevant. Nor does the fact that most, not all, methadone deaths happen when methadone is combined with other drugs – or alcohol. Perhaps those people who are taking methadone think they’re not going to be taking any other drugs so there is no risk. Well, many of them may not take other street drugs but there’s obviously a good chance – about a 50% chance, according to my little survey –  that they have been, or will be, prescribed another drug by their doctor. What happens to the risk factor then?
  • I have worked with many former heroin addicts. In fact, I employ and work with several currently. All of them have been completely drug free for over five years. I also have two kids who received addiction help and are now drug free. I have a son-in-law who was a heroin addict and is now drug free – he kicked cold turkey. And I have a friend who edits for me – she was a heroin addict and also kicked cold turkey, with no addiction help, two decades ago. It can and has been done by thousands of people. It is not an incurable disease.
  • One commenter mentioned that methadone was not harder to get off of than heroin and said it just takes longer. I would say that if someone is experiencing pain and discomfort for a longer period of time that you could describe that as ‘harder’. The longer the withdrawal process, the less likely you will have success. Most people cannot withdraw by themselves; in fact I have seen failure rates in the 90% range – which is why some people do better when they also have medically assisted drug detox. You use some drugs for a brief period of time, but then you’re off them altogether.
  • I have yet to see any scientific proof that former heroin addicts cannot produce enough endorphins and therefore need methadone. I have also not heard of anyone getting their endorphin levels tested prior to being put on methadone replacement therapy. So, where is the proof that endorphin deficiency is the source of the problem? Where is the proof that the right addiction help couldn’t work? If you have real data on this, I would appreciate receiving it.

I was never addicted to heroin so I cannot feel what you feel. But the fact is, with enough persistence, people can get off heroin and not need methadone. People can live drug free and none of you should have a problem with that. You may have chosen the methadone path, but addiction help is possible – which is why I do what I do.

If you don’t want addiction help, if you would prefer to stay on methadone, then you certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to do so. But if you think it would be a good idea to live drug free, by all means look for other alternatives. I don’t know how many thousands of people have been successful finding the addiction help they need to overcome heroin without having to replace it – yes, that’s what it is – with methadone, but I do know that, for most, it is possible. Call me if you would like to look into it. 855-889-0555. That’s Addiction Help Services.

0 responses to “Addiction Help or Methadone? Yes, the Choice is Yours.”

  1. zenith says:

    You say you haven’t seen any “proof” that years of opiate addiction damages endorphin production? That is absolutely absurd! This is established science. Perhaps you might tune in to the recent HBO 14 part special called “Addiction”, wherein scientists and doctors, complete with studies, CAT scans and MRI’s of the brain, discussed the brain chemistry of addiction. Why in the world do you thinki people feel so BAD when they get off opiates? Because their natural endorphins are not working. This is NOT rocket science–we KNOW we have endorphins. We KNOW we have opiate receptors in the brain, activated by these endorphins.We KNOW that endorphins regulate mood and control pain, and enable us to feel pleasure. When opiate drugs are intruduced, the brain senses that it has plenty of these chemicals on board and stops making endorphins. In many people, 2-4 years of opiate addiction are enough to cause permanent damage. This does NOT occur with everyone–many ARE able to get their natural endorphins going again after a few months or years. But for some, this NEVER occurs. Just because “some people can do it” does NOT mean ALL people can do it! Just because you know some people that did it, again, does not mean that anyone can. I tried your way thirteen times–thirteen–and I never ever felt one bit better, even after 4 years.

    You say you have never been addicted–then how dare you presume to know how it is to live like so many of us have, in such agony, tryong so hard to live drug free and following all the directions given and never ever getting any better.

    The success rates of those in your form of “treatment” are abysmal. Methadone has a MUCH higher success rate of returning people to a functional, illicit drug free life. I go to my clinic once per month. It takes a few minutes. I spend twenty seconds taking my medication. Other than that, my life is normal–I work full time, I raise my family, I am happy and productive, I am not high, I am not “missing” anything, except misery. After twenty years of addiction and thirteen trips through rehab and 13 relapses, after jail, and prison, for forging prescriptions, still didn;t stop me from using–after losing everything that meant anything to me and almost dying on several occasions, and then, after getting on MMT, being illicit drug free since day one, happy, productive, employed, responsible, giving back to society,–you woudl suggest I drop this successful therapy and go back to the one that failed THIRTEEN times, because you cannot imagine that someone might actually be doing well on this EVIDENCE based treatment?

    You ask why it is called “replacement therapy”? Because it IS replacement therapy–however, it is NOT a replacement for heroin, as you suggest. It is a replacement for the missing endorphins no longer produced by the brain, just as insulin is a replacement for the insulin no longer being produced by the pancreas.

    Here are some readings on opiates and the brain:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=MlvCOGa5FUYC&pg=PA116&lpg=PA116&dq=endorphin+deficiency&source=web&ots=lurqDj8Z_r&sig=CvpV8makl4RVX_pkubd_TTnyud4#PPA119,M1

    http://www.doraweiner.org/dole_nyswander_1967.pdf

    http://www.bi-valley.com/Files/BV_PostOpiatesBrain2005v2.pdf

    http://www.hbo.com/addiction/treatment/343_treating_opiate_addiction.html

    These are just a few. If you want more let me know.

  2. zenith says:

    And one more thing–when I went to counseling school, we had a presentation from a methadone clinic director on MMT. We had twelve people in my class–all of them in 12 step recovery. The teacher of our class told us that we should lay any prejudice aside–that we owed it to our future patients to give them ALL their options in a non biased way,and that MMT was a highly successful mode of treatment for a very difficult-to-treat addiction. After the presentation was over, the class gathered outside and stated that they would never ever refer anyone to methadone–ever. They “knew” that 12 step groups are the ONLY path to “true recovery”, they said, and that methadone was wrong wrong wrong, would turn them into zombies, etc etc. Every single one of these people relapsed within 2 years. I also relapsed, but I remembered the presentation and I knew–finally–where to go. But if ONLY someone had told me about MMT before I had spent twenty years in hell, it sure would have helped me. People need to have ALL their options presented to them, not have someone else’s personal prejudices and beliefs forced on them when they are drowining in despair.

  3. yola says:

    Dude, do you make commission on this?

    The fact is that blogs are just OPINIONS, and you know what they say about opinions, eh? Because these are just our opinions, nobody is right or wrong. Zenith said it best. Who is to say that one person’s choice of recovery is the ONLY way? That has to be one of the more arrogant things I’ve ever heard of!

    You’ve never seen any documentation on “endorphin deficiency”?? Are you a licensed counselor?? Try GOOGLE, you’ll get more than you ever wanted. And just so you know, “Methadone REPLACEMENT Treatment” is a term NO LONGER USED. It is an expression that contributes to the stigma that Methadone treatment already has enough of. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)is the correct terminology. Here’s a great document on stigma and the language we use –http://www.naabt.org/documents/NAABT_Language.pdf — whether it’s referring to methadone or buprenorphine.

    Nobody is telling you that some people can’t do it without MAT. But the people that you mention, unfortunately I have to wonder how long before they relapse. You think you have done this for a long time? I have been working with opiate addiction for close to 30 years and over this time have seen exactly why methadone is the gold standard for treating it.

  4. wendy wassall says:

    I too wish that I had found methadone 25-30 yrs ago. I would be rich with the man who I still should be married to but my disease took that away from me. I would have spared my mother years and years of worry and she would have soooo much money too!!! I do have to say that my mother never gave up on me and she was the person who went with me the first day. She is so thankfull that I have this drug to take. It gave me back my life and it gave her back her daughter. It also saved her grandsons life. See we took it responsibly and as prescribed.We were and still are so very much thankfull that there is a drug to stop the horrors of drug addiction. There is no cure yet but this is as close to a cure that there is. It stops the cravings and the sickness and the hopelessness that goes along with this disease.

  5. wendy wassall says:

    You say that there is other ways to treat this disease. You want data. Why don’t you listen to us that have this disease and have tried every way possible to get it under control but NOTHING WORKED. I didn’t find out about methadone untill I was 49 yrs old. I have had this disease it seems to me all of my life. Do you have any idea how many rehabs, counseling, hospital, 12 step programs that I tried durring those yrs? Many many, many of them and none of them worked. Oh yes and I also tried good old willpower and that doesn’t work eithher. By the time I found methadone I was honestly at deaths door. I had given up all hope. At first I would not believe this medicine would help but I stayed with it because I had nowhere else to go. It’s been 7 yrs and I am still taking methadone and am very thankfull. So you want proof. I AM THE PROOF ALONG WITH THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF OTHERS JUST LIKE ME.

  6. Alex Axelrod says:

    I am in the field of addiction treatment. Have been for over 20 years. I will say that methadone is a replacement for opiates-initially we need to get people in these situations medically stable as soon as we can so that they will not continue to use drugs on the streets. Once they are stable then they can listen to our suggestions for a recovery plan of action, which would include 12 step recovery. We do not want clients using any other drugs including alcohol while in treatment. The idea here is to give these folks a few months of stability and then ween them off of this medicine as well. One of the things you will find is that medical detox is probably the least successful for treating this addiction as you usually only have anywhere from 3-7 days and for some it is just not enough time, they will tell you that they leave detox and they feel “dope sick”, so they do what come easy to them-they go and use. The idea is to get people drug free. Your brain WILL start producing the necessary chemicals for everyday life, if there is a struggle with that then there are many non addictive meds that can help with that as well.

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