Methadone Today

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Volume I, Issues 5 - 4 (Most recent first)

Fighting for Life: Health Hazards and Methadone - by Ira Sobel
Patients to Dose at Clinic 7 Days a Week? - by Beth Francisco
Methadone Clinics in Trouble--Patients and Society Will Lose! - by Jon
Confidentiality in Treatment - by Penny
Methadone Treatment - by Ken
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) - by Nancy R.
Historical Perspectives - by Jon
Methadone Awareness: Get up, Stand Up!!! - by Ira Sobel

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Fighting for Life: Health Hazards and Methadone

Why Am I Still on Methadone? After all these years on methadone, I occasionally take a personal inventory to check to see my progress on the program which directly affects my life. After 2 years (on this second go-around), my reasons for remaining in methadone treatment have basically not changed. The bottom line is that methadone works for me. I'm no longer out of control and heavily addicted to opiates and prescription narcotics. I no longer hurt myself in a self-destructive death mission. What a relief. All that negative behavior is off my shoulders. When I enrolled on a methadone program, all that street hustling, petty arguments over petty things, stress, frustration and insanity left me phase by phase as I got better.

Why Aren't You on Methadone? A major point is that I no longer have to get high every few hours in order to stay one shot away from being dope sick. Methadone is long lasting. Its effects last up to 36 hours. That should be the number one reason why so many heroin addicts should surrender and get on methadone. By taking methadone as prescribed, there shouldn't be any problems with being maintained or being sick. It's the use of other drugs with methadone, like crack and alcohol, that makes those on the program feel depressed, confused and unbalanced. The unhealthy effects of all- night drinking, hangovers and crack binges keep these people down and going nowhere. People should know the facts that powdered drugs have killed before, and there is no telling when and who will die next from an overdose. So, by enrolling in a methadone program and putting down the needles and powdered drugs, the chances for a brighter future is very promising.

Methaphobia: Losing its Grip. I live one day at a time, and I do not worry myself about not being drug free or whether if/when I'm going to detox off methadone or not. I feel comfortable with my decision, and I don't care what others think. I remain on this medication because it has helped me so much. I believe that as long as I remain on methadone, things are going to get better and better. Those methaphobics get upset because with all of their chiding and all of their putdowns, you know what? They are getting boring! "Why can't you get off it?" "You are weak." "You are a loser." I've heard that shit so many times in my life that it has become boring!!! Boring!!!

I mean, why should I risk everything I've built up for myself on someone else's whims and expectations. Most of the methaphobics that take this position don't even know who I am or my fellow patients. They really do not care about me and you. They just like to play God, doctor and pharmacist. These methaphobics mean nothing to me.

We cannot change the nature of a methaphobic or stop their unresponsive, close-minded, stigma-spewing tirades. I've coined an appropriate phrase--METHAPHOBIA--a state of mind in which someone, or a group, displays an intense fear, bias and prejudice against people on methadone and methadone programs. There are those methaphobics that would feel justified in dismantling the whole methadone system. That's methaphobia at its most extreme. As I said: Methaphobics are BORING!!!

Methadone in the Age of AIDS. I realize now that I must present the bigger picture of the importance of methadone maintenance in the age of AIDS. With all of the inappropriate actions and all of the self-destructive behavior by active users, methadone treatment becomes an important link in minimizing health hazards to users. Most of all, enrolling in a methadone program reduces the risk of acquiring all of these numerous health hazards which is a keynote in harm reduction.

I believe that harm reduction must take on a holistic approach in order to decrease self-destructive behavior, reduce the transmission of diseases and viruses, and carry the message to every IV user that there is a better way to live. That users should stop abusing themselves, get in a methadone program to take care of their powerlessness over opiates and the needle, and stabilize their minds and bodies in order to get healthy because this self-abuse takes its toll on one's self respect. Methadone enables the person time to build a firm foundation for their lives. In this way, IV users can discover harm reduction practices, and this enables them to aspire to greater heights in taking proper care of themselves. This translates into cleaning needles properly and getting tested for HIV and Hepatitis C.

Health Hazards and Shooting Galleries: An Intimate Glance. So you say: What health hazards are you talking about? Such hazards as: contracting hepatitis and AIDS, venereal diseases, the possibility of death resulting from an overdose, poor health, arrest and incarceration. Pertaining to harm reduction in the age of AIDS, contracting viruses and diseases are at the top of the list.

Shooting galleries are the breeding ground for AIDS, Hepatitis C, endocarditis, venereal diseases, tuberculosis, infections and open wounds that are getting worse. Health hazards are all around anyone who enters the premises. There are real people dying in these dark, cold and colorless rooms. That is why we have to get the message out there to those most in need that getting out of the gallery and getting on a methadone program, which has been successful in detoxing addicts off heroin and maintaining addicts for 30 years, will dramatically change people's lives and, most of all, reduce these obsessive self-abuse tendencies.

People living in these galleries are the ones most affected by health hazards. There is an urgency for the development of harm-reduction practices as soon as possible. Cleaning needles properly is more important than anything to the IV user and again, cleaning needles properly with bleach reduces the exchange of viruses and diseases.

Shooting galleries are filthy, and the squalor attacks your senses as soon as you enter the room. The smell of urine is everywhere. There is blood and feces all over, both human and animal, broken needles and syringes, torn newspapers on the ground, glass from broken bottles, bloody toilet tissue, bloody water in cups, bloody rags and paper towels. The sight of rats scurrying across the floors and walls is a natural occurrence. People have sex in shooting galleries, babies are born, and people overdose and die every day in shooting galleries throughout New York City and across the USA. We must help these people get out of the galleries!!!

Fighting for Life
. There are many people who forgot why they got on methadone. They forget how bad life really was in those last months of active addiction. They get frustrated and start "stinking thinking." "Why am I on methadone?" "Why did I get on it?" "Why do I need it?" "It doesn't help." "It was a mistake?" For those patients who have been in the program longer than the birth of the AIDS virus should realize now that being on methadone keeps viruses and diseases away and, as long as we take methadone correctly, we can live a joy-filled life.

We will also overcome the methaphobics. We will stop going to shooting galleries. The hustling ceases, the scams and schemes leave you, you stop using powdered drugs and needles, you put down the bottle, you get a job or begin job training, you go back to school, do volunteer work, and if you maintain your faith in yourself and belief in a higher power, you are on your way. It's the fight of your life but by getting in a methadone program and by using harm- reduction practices, you can change your life and live respectably and healthy. PEACE

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Patients to Dose at Clinic 7 Days a Week?
by Beth Francisco

Could be! Every Wednesday morning, a few of us meet for the advocacy group and try to get others involved. Some of you say you do not have time, you have more important things to do, and others say you are just not interested. We wonder what it will take to get you interested. Will you be interested when the regulations are stiffer, or will it be when we have to come into the clinic seven days a week to dose? There is serious talk of this at the state level. Will it be when funding is cut for methadone maintenance treatment? There is always that threat hanging over our heads. Or, will you have time when there are no clinics at all?

According to the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, "The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is now operating under its 5th temporary spending bill (known as a Continuting Resolution or CR) until March 15th." The House passed an appropriations bill for SAMHSA, but nothing has been done with it by the Senate to date. "Under the House appropriations bill drug and alcohol treatment and prevention. . . demonstration programs are cut from $506 million. . .to $142 million. If there is no change to the CR, the $360 million shortfall will force the termination of many demonstration programs. Now, this may or may not affect us directly, but any cuts in addiction treatment are a threat to us.

What we need to do is write to our Senators and Representatives telling them that treatment and prevention in the area of addiction are proven cost cutters. For every $1 spent on drug and alcohol treatment, $7 is saved in costs to society, and "$12 to $14 is saved for every $1 spent on methadone treatment" (emphasis mine). We need to write to our representatives in Washington and Lansing. Talk about your success stories and how methadone has saved you from prison or death. Talk about your success in any area, and compare that to your life on the street. You can type a letter, handwrite it, e-mail it, or snail-mail it, but just do it--then come to an advocacy meeting. If we don't stand up for ourselves, no one else is going to.

If you do not mind coming into the clinic every day or if you do not mind harsher rules and regulations, you can continue what you are doing. However, if we want to improve the way we are treated and have a say in that treatment, every single one of us needs to become involved. You do not have to spend a lot of time on advocacy, but you do need to let everyone know that you care about what happens to you.

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Methadone Clinics in Trouble--Patients and Society Will Lose!
by Jon Wilson

Methadone treatment in Michigan is in serious trouble. The most effective treatment for narcotics addiction is in danger of being eliminated in this state. Thousands of successfully recovering addicts will be forced back into the streets. Some may detox successfully and do well in drug free treatment programs, but most will not. According to studies by Dole, Nyswander, McClellen, Payte, Joseph and others, those who attempt to detox abruptly, or at all, are likely to return to opiate use. Methadone's effectiveness has been proven, yet we are in danger of losing it as a treatment alternative in Michigan.

If methadone is so effective, why would Michigan eliminate it? This question cannot be easily answered. However, some reasons for phasing out the treatment are more apparent than others. Substance abuse is a very unpopular issue. Medicaid and private health insurance providers do not want to pay for substance abuse treatment at all. Since methadone is the most controversial form of substance abuse treatment, it is an easy target. Due to society's stigmatization of substance abusers, people in treatment for addictions are perceived as having little credibility and virtually no power to fight back. Medicaid and private insurers have already taken steps to greatly reduce or eliminate benefits to substance abusers. Additionally, methadone is a political hot potato. Some legislators and other elected officials are reluctant to air their views on methadone publicly. This is not surprising since insurance companies employ highly paid lobbyists to promote their best interests. And the drug free component of the substance abuse treatment industry also has an interest in the demise of methadone.

Politicians have declared a "war on drugs." Their answer is to build more prisons. By the same token, they are aware that many addicts have never committed any crime aside from possessing their drugs of choice. Another group of addicts, those who are addicted to legally prescribed medication have little chance of contact with the criminal justice system. Many addicts and their families are registered voters. Families are pleading and crying for treatment for their sons and daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers. They are not likely to vote for someone who wants to incarcerate their loved ones.

Much to the dismay of the insurance companies, some form of substance abuse treatment must receive political support. The drug-free treatment industry has tailored itself to the whims of Medicaid and other third-party billers. Insurance companies have a powerful ally in their efforts to squash methadone. Who better to discredit methadone than the drug free lobby? The drug-free treatment industry is largely responsible for perpetuating the myth that methadone is legal dope. Politicians are in bed with insurance companies and the drug free industry while ranting about the lack of prison beds. It is ironic that the government's own literature on the treatment of opiate addiction is pro methadone.

One of the most powerful weapons in this battle of politics, money, and power is the negative appearance of methadone treatment. The erroneous point of view that methadone is nothing more than a legal way to control addicts is at the heart of society's negative impression of the drug. Most successful methadone patients are aware that methadone, like other legally prescribed drugs, is sometimes diverted to the street and sold on the black market. Diversion is one of the government's excuses to impose stricter controls on methadone. Many methadone clinics are located in the inner city where police protection is scarce. It is not difficult for those seeking black market methadone to loiter near clinics. Methadone opponents attempt to use this fact to validate methadone mythology. It is necessary to separate fact from fiction so that the real issues can be resolved. The majority of methadone patients want nothing to do with those few who abuse or divert methadone. Recovery is a precious commodity; no serious patient would jeopardize it.

The methadone industry in Michigan has been harassed repeatedly over the past year. Clinics have been raided, government officials have disrupted the lives of patients by coming to their homes to question them, and the media has blatantly lied about methadone treatment. The latest tactic in Michigan's scheme to dismantle methadone treatment comes from the Michigan Department of Social Services. Without notifying the clinic involved, DSS mailed letters to patients of Michigan's largest clinic stating that the clinic would no longer be eligible to bill Medicaid. The letter stated that Medicaid patients should begin to transfer to other programs immediately and that their transfers should be complete by March 21, 1996. The letters were mailed while the clinic's administrators were in Washington D.C. to meet with legislators to discuss the future of methadone in Michigan. The state has used similar scare tactics in the past without success. If Michigan succeeds in its efforts to close its largest clinics, others will follow.

Contrary to popular belief, recovering addicts are not powerless. While it is true that addicts have little credibility, it is surprising how much their credibility improves once they have written to their legislators. Methadone patients who are not now registered to vote have been urged to do so by methadone patient advocacy groups. There are approximately 2,000 methadone patients in Michigan who have proclaimed their membership in Detroit Organizational Needs in Treatment (DONT) and The National Alliance of Methadone Advocates (NAMA). There are also a number of individuals in Detroit who have joined Methadone as A Legitimate Treatment Alternative (MALTA), another NAMA affiliate. In addition to their ongoing voter registration drive, Michigan's methadone patients are now organizing a letter-writing campaign. Patients are writing to their legislators to promote the positive therapeutic aspects of methadone treatment and to voice disapproval over government harassment of methadone programs.

Patients can potentially play the most important role in this battle. Unfortunately, most clinics and their administrative staffs have not thought to ask their patients to voice their opinions on the matter. This stems from the archaic, paternalistic attitude that exists among methadone treatment providers. But this does not mean that clinics are not concerned. They simply haven't informed their patients of the problems in Michigan. Their concern has manifested itself as an attempt to form a methadone treatment providers association, tentatively called Michigan Alliance of Methadone Providers (MAMP). The formation of MAMP is their effort to form a political voice and to provide a united front against the unrealistic, irrational demands of managed care organizations. The methadone treatment providers in this state have tried unsuccessfully to form an alliance in the past. The attempt failed because few could agree on anything. Now, as managed care organizations approach clinics individually to negotiate treatment costs, there is the potential for a "free for all" whereby Michigan's clinics will stab each other's backs while competing for funding and patients. It's the old "divide and conquer" strategy. Michigan's methadone treatment providers are aware of this and are worried about their fate. Ask anyone who attended the first two meetings of MAMP this year. All but two of the states' clinics were represented. Reports from the meetings indicate that those who are long-time competitors were concerned enough about Michigan's problems to sit down to explore possible solutions. One final note: It is interesting that Michigan's methadone patients are more politically organized than the state's methadone providers; they also get along with one another much better.

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Confidentiality in Treatment
by Penny

When one signs up as a patient in a methadone clinic, they are told that all of their information is confidential. Yet the true question is, "What do they mean by confidential?" According to Random House Dictionary, confidential is "a secret or private matter, not to be divulged or communicated to others." We assume that our counselor is the one that is privy to our most personal information and concerns. The doctor is next, knowing what is important for our medical concerns; the nurse knows our names and doses. The person at the front desk knows our financial concerns and what appointments we have to keep, but how much farther than that does it go?

I have been on methadone approximately fifteen years. In those 15 years, I have been in clinics in six states. I have experienced public clinics, private clinics, and clinics somewhere in between. Yet, at all of them, they told me that any information about me was confidential. They told me that also meant they could not even give information to my husband without my permission.

Most clinics have weekly meetings where they discuss clients. That has meaning for us because other counselors and clinic employees learn sometimes very intimate information about us. When we go to counseling and "open up," we do not think it should go past our counselor, yet it does. A special conflict comes up when a married couple is in a clinic. Clinics should not assume that all information one spouse confides is open to the other spouse; this even includes medical information. Yet, they often abuse this confidentiality and sometimes of great detriment to the couple.

A clinic in Tennessee that my husband and I entered several years ago abused our confidentiality to the utmost. During the physical (blood work) part of our intake, they discovered certain facts about each of us. They sat my husband and I down in the doctor's office with our counselors present, and the doctor proceeded to tell us what they found. The doctor told me I was pregnant and that my husband had syphilis. This had special meaning for us because we had spent most of the prior few months apart. As can be guessed, this caused major problems in our marriage. It turned out, after seeking our own medical tests, that if the clinic's lab had done their job appropriately, they would have discovered that my husband always tests false positive. As for me being pregnant, it was my place to tell my husband--not theirs. This major breach of confidentiality almost destroyed my marriage.

This was not the only incident where methadone clinic employees caused rifts in our marriage. Recently, results of a breath analysis on my husband was readily divulged to me. This time, a formal complaint was filed. After approximately six months, my husband still has not gotten a reply to his complaint.

Counselors of married couples also pass information back and forth about what is discussed in counseling. This information is sometimes passed on to the other spouse; other times, this information may be used against the other spouse in some form of punishment by the clinic. As a general rule, I try to be somewhat careful as to what I say about my spouse. It might come back to haunt me.

Clinic employees need to be very careful about what they say to other employees and/or patients. After all, they have supposedly promised "complete confidentiality" to the patient, and professional ethics demand no less.

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Methadone Treatment
by Ken

Methadone is a necessary part of our overall success in conquering the addiction that holds us firm in its grasp. Even so, we thoroughly repulsed and disgusted some people by the way we choose to treat our addiction. Life is a competition and we, as patients of a methadone clinic, are competitors. We now have the tools, skills, and support that we need to overcome one of life's greatest evils, and we must accept the responsibilities of treatment.

We pay for each breath we take by a crushed and digested past; life is a tough business. We have built each of our lives upon a mountain of painful memories; each of our bodies is a living monument that positive change can accomplish anything. We live in a civilization where there are many appointments--some to serve the greater good, some the greater evil. We, as substance abusers, have seen both sides of life's appointments and have survived! We, as addicts, have heard the sound of time beginning to run out on us. It made us realize that life is important and that it does matter what happens to us. We are destined to be free; because once we enter the drug-free world, we are responsible for everything that we do. Then we are answerable to ourselves and to the world we cherish most highly--our own! We can reach no higher than our arms--so do we aim for less than the most? We have beaten an enemy that is not only our enemy but an enemy to all people of the world--an enemy of humanity. We walked brazenly through a kingdom that had not been worth it. We had walked the mountains and the valleys of life--a shadowed life in a shadowed world.

But, now we walk in a free and unrestricted world. We just keep looking to the horizon and realize that anything can happen beyond it. All things inevitably lead to the same horizon. The chief difference between us and the straight world is that we better recognize the challenges that destiny gives to each person. Do not let somebody else make a decision for you or stand in judgement of you. If there is a battle to get through, battle for what you believe. If someone is to be judged, we must not be that judge as we are all brothers and sisters and must make our own decisions.

Maybe we are throwbacks to another time, of another kind, to another ideal, but this much we should realize and etch upon our very souls: we are alive today because of our decision to help ourselves, and we need not be ashamed of that decision. Forever Peace!

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Narcotics Anonymous NA
by Nancy R.

I am writing this article in response to Ira Sobel's article, "Methaphobia," in Methadone Today (December 1995, Vol. I, No. III). I would like to comment on his statement that they do not allow methadone patients to share at NA meetings. Maybe the NA groups in New York (where Ira is from) have that policy, but it is not that way at the meetings in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs! I also read a similar statement in Larry S.' article, "12-Step Support for Methadone Patients," in Methadone Today (August 1995, Vol. I, No. I).
Since the summer of 1994, I have been regularly attending NA meetings, usually four to five meetings a week. I go to some regular meetings but also try out new ones. I have attended meetings in Detroit, Oakland County, Macomb County, and St. Clair County. At all these various meetings, they have never told me I cannot share at a table because of being a methadone patient (and, yes, I am honest about it). I think it is important I let methadone patients know this, so they won't be discouraged from trying NA meetings. You see, there are only a few scattered Methadone Anonymous (MA) meetings (which Larry mentions), but there are a few hundred AA and NA meetings in the area!

If you are interested in trying an NA meeting, GO! If you happen to attend a meeting where they will not let you share, try a different meeting! Better yet, remind them of NA's Third Tradition: "The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using!" Also, the Tenth Tradition states, "NA has no opinion on outside issues. . . " (and methadone is an outside issue!)

In fact, I would like to quote from NA's "Basic Text" (the blue book) part of the writing for Tradition Nine (4th ed., p. 50): "Desire is our only requirement . . .any addict, regardless of drugs used. . .is free to practice the NA way of life. . . .All addicted persons are welcome and equal in obtaining the relief they are seeking from their addiction; every addict can recover in this program on an equal basis. . . .Membership in NA is not automatic. . .when a newcomer walks in the door. . .any addict who has a desire to stop using can become a member of NA." Self explanatory, yes?

An even better quotation begins on page 145, under Tradition Three in NA's book, It Works: How & Why: "Any addict who walks into a meeting, even a using addict (emphasis mine), displays a level of willingness that cannot be discounted. . . .still-using addicts are welcomed into our meetings with special encouragement to keep coming back . . . .these addicts are members in every respect (emphasis mine) as long as they have the desire to stop using, and they are entitled to the same consideration and support as any other member."

So, at most NA meetings, you will probably have no hassle or problems about being on methadone. Possibly, someone may suggest you think about getting off methadone, but you can always tell that person that methadone is keeping you CLEAN and you will detox when you and your doctor feel you are ready! We need to educate some people about methadone, as there is still much misunderstanding about it.

To live drug free (with or without methadone), we need to change our old ways of thinking and our old, using friends. In NA, you meet new friends--clean, recovering addicts who are learning to live and enjoy life WITHOUT using drugs. I have even met a number of people in NA who have successfully detoxed off methadone and are still drug free.

I think NA is a wonderful program! It is a spiritual (not religious) program. I have come to enjoy meetings where we "share" about our lives, our problems, our successes, and how we stay clean. Besides meetings, we have NA dances, picnics, skating parties, barbeques, etc.

If you can find a Methadone Anonymous or Methadone Awareness meeting, try that too. I hope more methadone clinics start MA meetings. Meanwhile, TRY AN NA MEETING! It changed my life!

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Historical Perspectives
by Jon

Many in the field of chemical dependency became aware of the problem as it emerged from the 1960's youth culture. Because of our training, we now know that the history of narcotics addiction is long and complex. We are fascinated that Poe and Freud were addicts and that Edison stayed awake for days under the influence of cocaine wine while perfecting the phonograph. We have heard stories of soldiers from the Civil War to Vietnam returning from the battlefield with opioid dependencies. We know that drug use flourished in the nineteenth century with legal morphine, opium, and cocaine. The history of addiction is well documented, but what about the history of addiction treatment?

Those who work with methadone patients have read of the Dole and Nyswander studies of the 1960's. We know of the U.S. Public Health Service Narcotic Hospital which opened in Lexington, Kentucky in 1935. While Lexington represented the first federally approved attempt at treatment, it did not represent the first sincere efforts to help addicts.

At the turn of the century, the treatment of narcotic addiction was limited to quackery. Treatment was based on the personal theories of the few physicians willing to address the problem. Most drugs were legal, and many of the "cures" were simply opium-based patent medicines. When the Harrison Act of 1914 passed, many addicts turned to the black market for drugs, others continued to maintain on physician-prescribed heroin, morphine, or cocaine. A 1919 Supreme Court decision placed restrictions on physicians, which limited their ability to prescribe drugs of abuse. This marked the beginning of the clinic era.

From 1919 to 1923, thirty-five clinics in 12 states dispensed morphine to patients. Some of the clinics dispensed heroin and cocaine. The most well-known clinic of this era was operated by Dr. Willis Butler. Dr. Butler attempted to detoxify his patients gradually. He understood that detox was not a realistic goal for many patients and simply maintained them. This was a tremendous display of insight more than forty years before Dole and Nyswander's first experimental clinic. In addition to his outpatient dispensing clinic, Dr. Butler also operated an inpatient facility for his patients who were in the final stages of the detoxification process. Upon completing the program, each patient received a certificate signed by seven doctors. This may have been the first employment of the team approach in addiction medicine.

In 1923, the government ordered the clinics closed. The study of addictions' treatment retreated into the dark ages until the 1960's when Dole and Nyswander compiled data similar to that of Dr. Butler. The first successful therapeutic use of methadone revolutionized the treatment of narcotics addiction. Methadone was found to be more effective than morphine maintenance due to its longer duration. Unfortunately, the chemical treatment of narcotic addiction continues to be unfairly stigmatized.

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Methadone Awareness: Get Up Stand Up!!!
by Ira Sobel (New York City)

For the better part of two decades, I've been on and off methadone maintenance programs. I've had to deal with family, friends, co-workers, and those in recovery with their prejudice and bias against methadone. I've been treated like a junkie with no will power. I'm sick and tired of having to explain myself to them. I am proud of my choice of treatment. I am an opiate addict. My drugs of choice are synthetic narcotics. I am not on methadone because my drug of choice is crack. I'm on a methadone program to recover from my powerlessness over opiates. My active years, before getting back on the program, were just that: active and out of control.

People like us on methadone have been stigmatized enough. It's about time that we get up, stand up, and be proud of our recovery. We have been unduly classified by some as being a non-entity in terms of a valid treatment modality. Where have these people been for the past thirty years? That's how long methadone has been used to both maintain and detox addicts from heroin. It was created by Drs. Dole and Nyswander, and Dr. Kreek and Herman Joseph, to treat opiate addicts using a long-acting narcotic that when taken as prescribed enables a person to be capable of doing things like having a job, going to school, getting job training, and traveling again because when we are doing dope, we aren't able to do anything. Our drug habit rules our world. You are on a fence and going nowhere but down. But with methadone, people can build a foundation for their lives that is so much better than they had while they were doing heroin and other narcotics.

First, people should be taught that you don't feel euphoria or get "high" when you are on a maintained dose of methadone. When it's used properly, the person does not achieve a state of being high. Whereas heroin gives the user a feeling of ecstasy, methadone keeps a person maintained without the feeling of doing heroin.

We have been slurred by people in recovery, those in the field of addiction, and by people in general. They feel that the entire methadone concept is just substituting one drug (methadone) for another (heroin). I've heard that slur one time too many in my life. Those people should be educated about the mind, addiction, and what role methadone plays in the treatment of opiate addiction.

We on methadone must continue to fight our oppressors together. We have to fight for our choices. We have also been maligned by unbelievers, black-balled by 12-step programs, and called names. Let's not hide in the closet. We are not anonymous. We accept the fact that we are on methadone to save our lives, and we should know all about the medication we are taking.

At Methadone Awareness (MA) meetings, we learn to dispel myths and rumors laid at our feet by the misinformed. I believe that the only way to share this common knowledge is by indoctrinating "methadone awareness" meetings. In this setting, people on methadone can share about their recovery, personal problems, successes, important health issues, and facts about methadone. The patients should know the answers to so many questions we share.

Methadone awareness is more than just a meeting. It is a learning experience. People who attend MA meetings learn fact from fiction and how well methadone has afforded us. Patients who continually show up at meetings have found something that works for them. Although Alcoholics Anonymous is 60 years old, the roots of MA meetings are just beginning. I've gone to many 12-step programs in my day, but going to methadone awareness meetings makes me feel real comfortable because it seems so natural. Methadone awareness meetings feel so freeing in the divine order of things.

One of the most important things I've said in all of my articles and stories is in "The Orange Colored Cure." I wrote (and still feel this way) that "being on methadone is not the end of your life but the beginning of your recovery from active opiate addiction." MA meetings expand one's thinking about methadone. We discover together that methadone is a safe medication and we find out that there are a lot of similarities between us. We each share many of the same fears. By attending methadone awareness meetings, we help each other to stem the tide of adversity and beat the odds that are against us.

When I attend MA meetings, I speak from my heart and learn to be honest with myself and people in the meetings. Another aspect is to share my feelings and facts about methadone. At one meeting I attended, someone said that methadone was "poison." That was that person's feeling about methadone. I shared that there are so many good points about being in treatment that it overrides any negativity that is being voiced.

We must be "aware" of these issues, and this awareness will unite us in our recovery. In MA meetings, we become positive and learn to have self-esteem and to have pride in ourselves. We are not anonymous, nor are we hiding in the wings and going nowhere. The basis for MA meetings is our common fight to beat drugs and obtain the best treatment so that together we learn how to have gratitude and humility for our recovery!!! PEACE.

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