The following is a reaction to a debate - somewhat heated to be sure - that I recently got into with someone who once had been one of my dearest friends. Finally after a decade and a half of a pretty hardcore opiate addiction, he decided to go on methadone and has been on it just shy of two months. Already, he is spouting the rhetoric that I hear so very often from the majority of methadone patients at the clinic that I attend, and once again, I found myself frustrated. If some of what I am about to say doesn't make complete sense, I apologize in advance as I was on a bit of a tear when I typed most of this!
I know that Methadone Maintenance Therapy and its success/benefits can certainly be a hotly debated topic on any given day within the opiate addict community. I certainly can understand why it is something that can get both the for and against sides worked up into quite the lather. There are many times when I wish that there was at least another solution to MMT rather than cold turkey and abstinence available to me, but unfortunately, in southwestern Ontario, Canada this is pretty much all that I've got right now.
Quite often, the meth program in my city can be a very negative experience. The few doctors that are part of it often stress only the negative - the high recidivism rate if you were to actually complete the program or the likelihood that you would spend your entire life in treatment. There can be little to no counciling, plus often they push and push you until you are on an almost unmanageable high dose often prescribing amounts way above what was your true blocking dose. Then they discourage you when you want to start to taper down and decrease your dose. I refused to go any higher than 95mg once I felt that I had stabilized and am now currently on a dose of 60 that I find is more than adequate.. My husband stopped increasing his at 145mg and is currently on a dose of 90. A lot of the other patients were encouraged to go on doses that were at least double our amounts. No wonder they all felt like crap most of the time, not to mention feeling rather defeated.
Never mind all of the talk of methadone's side effects. This alone can defeat you before you're even given a chance to get started. How is it possible to imagine a life in recovery, if you're never given the required encouragement to attempt to even get there? I think that a lot of methadone''s side effects are in reality urban legends. Now after spending three and a half years on it - round two for me also, as I spent almost the same amount of time on it a decade ago - I found many of the supposed possible side effects or reactions never materialized unless you literally "willed" them upon yourself. I found that those that bought into and blindly believed and accepted all the garbage that our doctors were feeding us actually developed exactly what they were told they would develop. Self-fulfilling prophecy really.
For many this became their license to not have to work or even look for work and justified their desire to eat any sweet thing that passed remotely within their line of vision and pound on those extra 70 pounds. Suddenly they felt completely justified in needing a previously unprescribed prescription for Ritalin to keep them going. While many of the people that I met while I was in treatment fell firmly into this category there were some that could just not settle into the program and found meth treatment to be an unfulfilled painful step of their recovery process. For these unfortunate few there were real and valid issues with methadone.
Yes, you definitely feel more exhausted and it is hard to focus at times. Suddenly you feel as if you have developed ADD. No doubt years of opiate abuse combined with meth's assault on our bodies throws our metabolism right out of whack and we all seem to pacify this with an increase in our daily sugar intake. Obviously a weight gain will soon follow. But is this weight gain solely from the meth or are we no longer running ourselves into the ground constantly searching for our next hit? Once the hunt is removed we immediately become more sedentary. Combined with the fact that each and every penny is no longer being spent on illegal substances we find that for the first time in a long time we actually have a well stocked fridge and a full cupboard. We can finally get rid of that jumbo jar of peanut butter and $.99 package of plain crackers.
With this kind of philosophy from the clinic it was no wonder that the majority of the patients felt as if they had traded one losing card for another. Had there been a little bit more positive feedback from the doctors I think that they would have seen entirely different results. I talked to so many that were also suffering from constant low level depression while in treatment. Because I felt that I was being prescribed my true stabilizing dose, once there, all cravings for opiates disappeared. Honestly