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Utica’s New Methadone Clinic: Blessing, or Devil in Disguise?

“Methadone, an opioid, is used to wean addicts off other opioids,” said an article about the Utica’s new methadone clinic, due to open later this year. Of course, with that description of methadone, who wouldn’t think it was a blessing? More addicts being helped to get off heroin and prescription painkillers? How can that be anything but good?

In fact, it is almost ANYTHING but good. Why? Because getting off heroin and other opioids, without methadone, can take a week or two for actual withdrawal and then, if the person is actually addicted to whatever drug they’re taking and needs drug rehab, it will take them some months to make the changes in their life that will get them to the point of being free of addiction.

With methadone, on the other hand, it’s hard to say how long withdrawal lasts because the withdrawal symptoms are masked by methadone. That can certainly be an advantage – it makes it easier for the person to confront getting off heroin or prescription painkillers – BUT, once they’re finished withdrawal, that’s when you really see the difference between methadone ‘replacement therapy’, and a real drug rehab program.

  1. People on methadone replacement therapy receive barely any rehabilitation. Some methadone clinics require that the person also get personal and/or group counseling while on methadone, and some don’t. But those that do often only require those meetings once a week, at the most. This amount of work done on their addiction is virtually negligible.
  2. As a measure of effectiveness, some experts say that 80 – 90% of the people who do a methadone program relapse back onto the drugs they came to get help for.
  3. Worst of all, they are turned into methadone addicts. They generally stay on it for many years, and some stay on it for life.

What Happens When People Use Methadone ‘Replacement Therapy’?

Do a google search like “how long does the average person stay on methadone” and you’ll see one headline after another about what it’s like for people who get methadone replacement therapy rather than just getting it for a week or so to get through withdrawal.

Here are a few headlines and info about the stories and responses:

  • “Can I Ever Get Off Methadone. How?” is a forum question from a guy who kicked alcohol and ALL drugs and has been clean for seven years – of everything except methadone. He is trying to get off methadone, but has been reducing the dosage regularly for two years and still isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to get off it. He’s wondering if it’s hopeless. Two aware winning drug addiction specialists answer him. One says that it’s very unusual for someone to get off methadone, but not impossible. The other says that it’s pretty much impossible and what’s wrong with being on methadone anyway?
  • “Has Anyone Successfully Stopped Taking Methadone?” is from a woman who did manage to get off methadone and has been off it for a year. She’s looking for someone else who’s also gotten off it. You’d think that having been in a community of people taking methadone – allegedly as a way to get off drugs, not with a plan of being on methadone forever – she’s know at least one person who’s no longer taking it. But, she didn’t. The responses include “that is so awesome. How did you do it?!” Another response was from someone who knew someone who’d gotten off methadone after being on it for 13 years. It took him three years to wean off it, and this person commented that it was the hardest time of his life.
  • Another response was from someone who, when she got off the other drugs and onto methadone, was quite successful for a while. She did a lot with her kids, went to school and got a medical assistant certificate and was full of hope. But soon the methadone started affecting her and made her unable to continue with the life she’d planned. I quote her:“The methadone starting taking a toll on me, I was becomming paranoid about everyone around me, like I was having a nevous breakdown, I also wanted to come off of methadone too, so I stopped taking it, the next day I had a psycotic break, I didnt even know my name, my husband took me to the hospital and the hospital shipped me to a pych ward, there I thought people wanted to kill me, that the docs were trying to kill me with the psych meds they had me on, I even saw on tv that my house was burning down, in which it wasnt, although i am doing better my congitive skills are terible, I am a college graduate and still at home, not feeling sorry for my self but my brain want allow me to do allot of stuff, I cant even spell words like Iused to,Iforget what I am talking about, forget what I am doing.”
  • And here’s someone else who got off it. “Hi, I was on the methadone maintenace for many years and finally got off of 95mg cold, I ended up in detox for over two weeks, and then to a rehab for 30 days, I feel so much better, and yes you can get off of it, you cannot die, but you get very sick, I faced it and I lived and its great not to have that demon everyday looking straight at me, good luck god bless, mike.”
  • Another person said that after being on methadone for three years she had a nervous breakdown and decided to come off the drug. She said it was very hard and that when she signed up at the methadone clinic no one told her it would be hard to come off it. She was also on Xanax. She got off it, but look what it took:“I was on methadone for 3 years. The strongest mg I ever got to was 50, then a theraputic dose of 28. It was very hard comming off of methadone, after you get down to 30 mg it is very hard. No one at the clinic told me it was very hard to come off of when I signed up for it, but I decided to come off of it, I had kind of a nerveous breakdown and then I decided to stop taking the methadone, and xanax I was on. I was hospitalized in a psych ward for one month. I went completely out of my mind comming off of it, but I know a little bit of it was my nerveous breakdown to. They automatically put me on paxil, heart pill and klonopin, when I got out at hte end of december my brain still was weird. I started feeling better in feb 2012. the doc put me on celexa and in october I still wasnt hinking clearly, I had no personality still felt disconnected, so I decided to start comming off of it, I started feeling better in november, I will take the last 5 mg of my celexa today, I finally feel like me again, a year later, but drug free, and honestly I feel the best I have ever felt.”
  • Another woman says her daughter’s been on methadone for five years and asks why the state isn’t bringing her off it.

And then of course there are several comments from those very ill-informed people who say that some people have to stay on methadone for the rest of their life. Not true.

The Utica area of New York already has two methadone clinics about 50 miles from Utica, but the new one actually in Utica is being opened so addicts don’t have to drive for an hour to get their drugs.

If you or anyone you know is considering using the clinic and getting on methadone, be aware that it’s FAR easier to go through withdrawal and rehab without the drug. If the person can’t handle withdrawal, go to a drug-assisted medical detox center. They put you on a drug (like suboxone) to help you through withdrawal – that’s maybe a week or 10 days – they you’re off the opiate you’re taking AND the suboxone. Ready for rehab – which will really change the person’s life so they are no longer an addict.

Isn’t that preferable to a less painful week or so but then being addicted to methadone for years?

Call us to find a real drug addiction rehab program – one that doesn’t simply trade one addiction for another.

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