Site icon The Niagara Reporter

Methadone controversy goes on: Swapping one addiction for another?


Type the words “methadone” and “controversy” into your Google search engine and you’ll quickly come up with more than 213,000 hits that demonstrate that methadone maintenance, as it is commonly called, is not the simple, safe and effective answer to addiction its’ proponents claim.

Even though leading health organizations promote methadone maintenance as a cost-effective tool to prevent HIV transmission and save lives from overdose and other drug-related activity, these programs continue to face criticism from traditional recovery groups, medical providers, and even users themselves.

“A motivated patient on replacement therapy can make astounding changes in a year,” Dr. Logan Graddy, who runs a maintenance program in North Carolina, recently told the Huffington Post. “Many change careers, go back to school, and turn their lives around to where they might have been before they started taking drugs. I’ve seen miracles happen.”

Former New York City mayor and one time presidential candidate Rudolph Guiliani has been one of the most vocal critics of methadone maintenance.

”I think methadone is an enslaver. It’s a chemical that’s used to enslave people,” Guiliani said. ”If it’s necessary for transition, then of course it should be used for transition. If you’re going to keep somebody permanently enslaved to methadone for the rest of their lives, then I have real questions about your common sense.”

When methadone was first introduced as a treatment for those addicted to heroin and other opiates in the early 1950s, it was used for a short time to lessen the effects of withdrawl during the detoxification process.

Later, when large numbers of American servicemen began returning from Vietnam seriously addicted to heroin, the maintenance programs sprung up, replacing one illegal addiction with another, state sponsored one.

”The goal of our society should be self-reliant people — not normalizing dependency,” Guiliani said. ”What’s happened is, the treatment of choice now among all of these doctors is methadone.”

A recent Canadian study conducted by a team under the direction of Dr. Aslam Anis of St. Paul’s Hospital in British Columbia found that just giving street heroin addicts prescribed heroin is more cost effective and has less risk of mortality and relapse than any methadone program.

“The treatment actually saves money and provides better outcomes,” said Anis. “The retention rate in heroin was double what it is in methadone.”

Recent medical studies have revealed that methadone addiction can cause sudden cardiac arrest. Prior to 2001, federal law did not allow methadone clinics to prescribe methadone doses higher than 100mg/day. Successful lobbying from methadone doctors and businessmen who own methadone clinics changed the law allowing methadone clinics to use their judgment and push methadone doses much higher.

Florida Dr. Rick Sponaugle, who has spoken at the White House about methadone addiction, called methadone clinics “glorified drug dealers.”

Today, about a half million people in the U.S. are participating in methadone maintenance treatment programs.

“Many believe highly profitable for- profit methadone clinics create an unjustifiable conflict of interest, since they profit, from reducing counseling and medical treatment, while maintaining methadone dependency,” Sponaugle wrote.  “Numerous methadone patients complain methadone clinics do not provide adequate methadone detoxification, to methadone addicted patients wishing to decrease or eliminate their methadone dependence.” 

Today, about a half million people in the U.S. are participating in methadone maintenance treatment programs.


See related article:

Exit mobile version