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New legislation could curb methadone access

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The prescription drug methadone helps addicts kick the habit, but some Pennsylvania state senators says the treatment itself has become a habit for too many patients.

(Photo: smallritual/Flickr

Methadone treatment helps curb cravings and drug-seeking behavior when addicts are trying to give up oxycontin or other opioids.

State Senator Kim Ward wants an audit of Pennsylvania’s spending on methadone treatment. Her proposal also requires providers to map out a one-year narcotic treatment plan for patients.

Ward: … with an additional six months of treatment, if a person is progressing toward recovery. There will be no more open-ended taxpayer funded maintenance. Our goal would be to have folks recover and not just maintain.

Arthur Evans leads Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health. He says some drug users have long and severe addictions that require several years of methadone support. Others patients, he says, can move off the medication in a year or two.

Either way Evans said the decision should be left in the hands of health providers, not directed by lawmakers.

Ward says methadone is supposed to help addicts.

Ward: It provides a benefit to the community at large if that happens, but instead we have been having maintenance, instead of recovery as an everyday occurrence. It has become a drug of choice, we have traded an illegal substance, heroin, for a legal synthetic narcotic.

Temple University drug treatment researcher David Zanis says methadone therapy should be combined with psycho-social support. He says patients often get little counseling to make a lasting transition to recovery.

Philadelphia Democrat state Senator Michael Stack supports the proposal to tighten the rules for methadone.

Stack: It helps withdrawal symptoms for folks trying to recover from opiate addiction, but the drug relieving effects wear off before the drug leaves the body. So it’s easy for addicts to crave more. And when they can’t get more at a treatment center they find it on the street, cheap.

Stack wants to track methadone-related deaths, car crashes and other incidents.


  • mel says:

    Ok big deal u need it blah blah…so go get it. BUT I say medical assistance should not pay for it!!! AKA/ I should not pay for a drug addict to get a free ride on the junk bus to get their dope. You got yourself addicted now you should pay for it.

  • Remy says:

    Its funny that the overwhelming majority of individuals out there whom have no experience whatsoever with addiction are the ones that are so adamant and quick to condone the use of methadone. They should consider themselves lucky that drug addiction hasn’t reared its ugly head into their personal lives… YET! I understand some of the concerns and/or hesitancy people have out there but the stigma surrounding methadone is perpetrated due largely to misinformation or lack of education. I don’t think it’s the best course of action for all opiate addicts out there and I’d encourage other forms of treatment before making the decision to get on a maitenance program like this. Unfortunately conventional methods in use to treat addiction are not one size fits all. I would suggest trying other treatments beforehand. I went to multiple rehabs myself some inpatient some outpatient on numerous occasions over the course of a few years. I would always relapse regardless of how much “clean time” I had in between. Sometimes a few days, weeks, even years would pass without using and for some reason unbeknownst to me I went back to opiate addiction fully aware of how detrimental it was to my health and well-being. Contrary to what alot of people think when you get to a certain point you absolutely hate the drug and the hold it exerts on you. It’s not fun. It’s a pathetic existence. Actually it’s not an existence at all. People cite car accidents and multiple other calamities attributed to the drug itself. More people are involved in car crashes due to inattention while applying makeup, shaving, eating, any mundane activity you can think of. Im not even going to bother bringing up cell phone statistics. This medication saved my life and that’s not in any way a dramatic statement.. It’s a fact. Being able to regain some semblance of a normal life again is amazing and I cherish every second of it. We’ve lost so many loved ones who will never be able to feel life in that way again because for them it was too little to late.

  • Rich says:

    Let’s face it, Methadone is actually worse than the problem it tries to fix. It is a no brainer, the stuff should be outlawed.

  • james says:

    honestly guys methadone helps alot of people i am on the methadone clinic myself and i mean im hearing all these bad things on the internet about it but the clinic has alot of good things about it and a book full of it and the doctors research alot there. i mean the effects dont wear off like that but it will not work as good after a while then you have to get your milagram uped higher then what it was everytime. i mean in a way it is bad people can sell there take homes to other people you can over dose on it . you wont overdose if you take it properly though. the drug methadone helps me alot though i dont get the craving to you the widthdrawl is gone and we do get alot of counciling i have to go to three groups a week and the groups are an hour and a 1/2 long and we also have to do a individual group basically just a private session only you and your counciler talk for a hour in a 1/2. and the groups help if you pay attention i mean some people do dipp out but if you dipp out on it its not like the person dips out all days its only for a little while and thats it then your fine. the disadvantage i dont like is you have to drive there every morning and get medicated there,you can be late for work. but overall the program is not that bad i mean one thing that i never got was if it is so addicting why do they let people take it ya know i never got that then people are going through widthdrawl again but what they do is in the clinic they slowly get you off the medication so the widthdrawl isnt bad at all so you will be fine. i think methadone is better then suboxone overall because it helps you not have cravings alot better then the suboxone and you actually feel it working. but methadone does take awhile to work it does not kick in right away like suboxone does. methadone lasts for 24 to 72 hours in your system. suboxone lasts 48 to probably 80 hours. i mean they say suboxone widthdrawl is alot less harmful but there both very hard to get off of my mom is on suboxone and i seen her go through servere widthdrawl one time it was so bad she actually went to the hospital she couldnt move out of bed i didnt know what was wrong with her and she didnt know either. one thing that is very important do not mix suboxone and methadone it will make widthdrawl syptoms come up and it will be very horribly bad . what i did was one time i didnt have methadone in two days and i took a suboxone and these widthdrawl syptoms came along they were so bad i was sweating unbelieveably bad it wouldnt stop i could not stop sweating. and i was getting miserble. it was worse then regualr widthdrawl. honestly i went without methadone for six days and didnt really have widthdrawl i was fine but i felt that i would relapse without the medication because of the mental stage. methadone has the same ingrediant as suboxone that blocker. now you have to be on 60 to 70 milagrams for the blocker to be effective for methadone.if suboxone users went on methadone i bet they would stay on methadone because it works better over all im not saying that it works better because people thinks it gets you high what it does is i mean it makes you a little bit dippey and it makes you hyper a little with a little energy and people automatically think your high thats all i have to say

  • A much more efficient means to accomplish the same objectives of each separate legislation while implementing a practice throughout each OTP is through risk management planning. The implementation of specific plans to identify; analyze and treat(ie., eliminate, mitigate, minimize, etc.) risks to patient and public safety by Opiate Treatment Programs in the US should be mandatory.

  • Lisa Mojer-Torres says:

    I believe imposing a requirement and regularly enforcing risk management plans for each opiate treatment programs (“OTP’s”) that identify and address risks to patient (and puplic) safety is an option to having multiple new regulations passed. Solid risk management planning accomplishes all of the objectives sought through the listed proposed legislation with the additional beneifit of creating a climate throughout the OTP’s that integrates current standards of applicable clinical and legal care.

  • Mike says:

    This politicians want to practice MEDICINE without a license. They fail to understand that this medication is prescribed by a physician. What next tell a physician how much insulin a diabetic needs?

  • Kerry Wolf says:

    It’s too bad that these senator have absolutely ignored the factual information they have been provided regarding methadone and how it works. We don’t tell people with, say, depression or schizophrenia that they have only one year on their medication and if they are not “cured” from their incurable brain disease by then, their meds will be discontinued. This is the same thing. Opioid addiction causes changes in the brain chemistry of the user–changes which are often permanent, and which trigger repeated relapses as the patient seeks relief from the severe depression, anhedonia and physical exhaustion that accompany this disorder. Methadone replaces the missing chemical (endorphins) WITHOUT causing a high or euphoria, allowing the patient to resume a normal life. It does not impair cognitive functioning in stable, tolerant patients who are not using other drugs–all studies show that they can drive, work, and do all normal tasks without impairment–here is an abstract of just ten such studies–there are many more:

    Additionally, studies show that people who are forced to leave MMT against their will relapse at a rate of 90% within the first year. These relapsed addicts will then pose a safety and health threat to themselves and the community, not to mention an increased financial cost to taxpayers if they must be incarcerated or hospitalized, or if foster care for their children is needed.

    • scooper says:

      So much contraversy and little public knowledge on how the treatment works. One bad apple in the bunch can spoil the whole bushel. I have worked at a fews clinics and the regulations are strict. Opiate addiction is different than other addictions. The person is physically and psychologiacally addicted. Coming in to treatment is not an easy decision by any means. Is methadone an addictive drug ? yes. Does and individual trade one drug for another? No. They are not seeking the high they are seeking to become well. There are test that can be done to monitor doses to determine theraputic levels. There are other drugs that are discouraged in treatment one of them being benzodiazapines. People believe just because they are prescribed by a doctor that it is ok to take with methadone. It is a dangerous combination. methadonne alone is not a threat. If some one appears impaired it is likely because they have more than methadone in their system. Again, restrictions in our clinic are strict, counselors, nurses and security have an eye open for impairment and if there is suspision, onsight drug testing is completed and a dose for that day can be denied.We are proactive in keeping the patient and community safe. Can one drive and function on methadone alone ? certainly. The idea behind treatment is to become stable and productive in society. Inprove family relationships, financials, legal/crime, health risks, MH, and many other areas of ones life. All of this improvement takes time… more than a year. Brain receptors need to heal, intensive therapy needs to be in place, a step down with aftercare needs to be considered, recovery is for life, not for 52 weeks and left in the corner upon completion of treatment. Chances are they will need to renter( that is if they dont die from relapse because of premature discharge and not enough of preventiive skills)which put risidivism rates up . If I was a diabetic and in need of medication to keep my A1C in a theraputic range, who would question it? Disease/ addiction knows no face. Support our communities and Methadone treatment centers , these folks don’t stand much of a chance with out us. No one wakes up and says I want to be an addict!

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