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Methadone Today

Methadone Today

Volume IV, Issue IV (April 1999)
Order Newsletter in print: Order here

Excerpt from Methadone List

ARM - Getting Started, Planning for the Future - Malcolm Dickson

The Stigma Continues - Name Withheld by Request
Public Health Emergency - Ignored Despite Record Drug Deaths in County, State, Country - Floyd Landrath

Letters to the Editor

Doctor's Column - Methadone, Weight Gain & Reduced Sex Drive

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Methadone Today,

 My husband has been on methadone for about 2 1/2 years now.  Finally, we have reached normalcy in our lives.  Because our home state (Ohio) does not recognize the importance of methadone maintainence, he must travel to Michigan to Project Life (Parkview) for his methadone.

 Because he works 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., he must get up at four o'clock in the morning in order to be first at the clinic (5:30 a.m.).  He has been doing this faithfully all these years and hasn't had one setback.  I really appreciate the efforts your state has put into this situation.

 I've stuck by my husband for over 20 years.   I have watched him slide from one dependency to another and endured hardships when he went to prison after committing crimes to support his habit.  I did this because I knew that somewhere, somehow, someone would find a solution to his problems.  And he did just that.

 Methadone was indeed our lifesaver.  I  have no doubt that without methadone, my husband would be dead today.  Instead, we are living a good life; he's holding down a job he enjoys, and we are finally able to live the life I knew we could--the life I knew deep down my husband was capable of living.   I can't tell you how much this means to me--to finally have the man I knew existed inside of him.  I'm glad I stuck it out because it was truly worth it.  Thank you all very much.

Dear Methadone Today,

 The general public is somewhat misinformed and grossly misled in understanding how the medication "methadone" works in helping the suffering people addicted to heroin and other opiates.  Methadone is by far the most sucsessful form of treatment available to date.

 Speaking personaly, methadone not only helped in saving my life, it has given me the strength to say no to drugs,  something I was never able to do before taking methadone.  I had tried AA/NA; I had been to over 80 detoxes, always with the best intentions of never using drugs again.

 I truly wanted to stop.  Even after having a heart attack and nearly dying, I kept finding myself making the same mistakes and expecting diferent results.  Finally, a doctor told me that he had a lot of success with paitents who were taking methadone and recomended me to a local clinic.

 Well, it has been over three years now.  I not only have my life back, but I`m doing something with it.  This spring I will be attending college.  I would like to councel teens who are heading down the wrong road in life.

 Perhaps sharing my own experience, strength, and hope will help prevent someone from going through a life of pain and suffering, but rather help them to get on the road to contentment, love, and joy.

Ron M.


Dear Beth,

 Just wanted to say thanks, as I just received my March issue of Methadone Today!

 Ironically, there is an article, "My Life On Methadone," that was very enlightening, as I am yet to be pro or con methadone maintenance.   I'm leaning greatly toward the first, and this article reinforced that.  I, not unlike the author, have fought addiction for many years (25) through 12-step programs, residential programs, counseling, etc., with the same results--I always go back to using!

 Still, I don't want to lay down my guns and die, I do feel angst--especially with my upcoming parole.  I feel--hey, if I can live a productive life, contribute to society, not be a threat to the public, and feel "normal" while on a methadone maintenance program, why not?!

 But there is the parole office!  I'm  afraid they're still in the dark and may go as far as to return me to prison because I don't want to use heroin any longer!  So, I'll have to go out in the free world and live in fear--of using an opiate to feel normal or using a prescribed medication (methadone) to treat my disease of addiction and being punished either way!

 Consequently, I praise the new advocacy group:  Advocates for Recovery through Medicine (ARM).  Finally, maybe those who look at methadone as an "easy way out" for opiate addicts, will understand that this may be our only hope for normalcy in all aspects of our lives.
 I find it reprehensible that even though methadone is accepted by and endorsed by organizations held in high esteem, such as National Institutes of Health, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, etc., it and its users are stigmatized as dope fiends, junkies, losers!

 Hopefully this new group, ARM, will let those who are misinformed about this treatment know that it will let us, who are afflicted with the disease of addiction, seek relief and a way to catch our dreams before they slip away!

 Beth, if I can somehow help now or upon my release, please do not hesitate in asking!  Thanks again!  I've enclosed a few stamps to help in mailing.  I will send more when I'm able.  - Allan

Editor's Note:  For anyone having trouble with a parole or probation officer "allowing" them to enroll in a methadone program, Methadone Today has a letter that you can use to give your officer.  Write us at PO Box 164, Davison, MI 48423-0164, visit the Methadone Today web site or write to us at yourtype@tir.com


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Public Health Emergency - Ignored

Despite Record Drug Deaths in County, State, Country

by Floyd Ferris Landrath

Both Multnomah County Health Dept. and the Oregon Health Division are paralyzed by fear of controversy over last year's record 235 drug-related deaths in Oregon.  So, what makes these health officials freeze like deer in a beam of headlights?  At one level, it's a legal and philosophical conflict between cops and doctors, jailers and healers, government and community.  In other words, politics.  At another level it's ignorance and rigid attitudes even within the public health itself.  "How can you save someone bent on killing them self," stated one callous health official.

 But each year as the number of drug related deaths continues to soar, it becomes painfully obvious that this problem is killing many who had no intention of committing suicide.  You can bet if someone was dying every 1.5 days from tainted beer or aspirin, immediate action by the  government would be taken to recall the product and stop its distribution.  The press and media would run constant warnings.  Yet, not so with drugs like heroin or cocaine.  You see, these are "controlled" substances, and the government has prohibited them.  And the emperor is naked, but no one who wants to keep their job dares mention or question it.

 Even with the social disapproval and stigma attached to illegal drug use, only an extremist would support a death penalty for that alone.  Yet in effect, that's exactly what is taking place.  Sometimes it's too easy to forget those "druggies" or "junkies" were people, often very nice people who worked and paid their bills like anyone else.  They had lives, families and friends.  They had a right to be as well protected from bad aspirin as well as bad dope.

 Consider this a wake-up call, especially if you are a parent of a teenager.  It does not look good for the future. There's a glut of heroin (and all those other "controlled" substances) on the streets and even playgrounds these days.  "Drug counselors warn that the toll likely will stay high because the addictive drug is cheap, potent and widely available," according to a Feb. 10 report from the Associated Press.

 Reports from the Oregon Medical Examiner's Office give grim credence to that dire warning.  For every year since 1988, with the exception of 1991, drug related deaths in Oregon have seen a steady increase.  They went from 67 dead in 1988, to 235 in 1998 a nearly 200 percent increase.  Of those 235, 117 people died here in Multnomah County (that's down a little from 121 in 1997 and 118 in 1996).  Statewide heroin-related deaths went from 37 in 1988  to 179 in 1998, a nearly 500 percent increase.  In Multnomah County, it jumped from 33 dead in 1989 to 102 last year, a 300 percent rise.

 While the Oregon Medical Examiner does not keep tabs on things like age, sex, race, etc., Dr. Ernest Drucker (1) does.  He's a professor of epidemiology at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine who reports on drug-related research in the January-February issue of the journal Public Health Reports, the official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service.

 Even though the federal government reports drug use has been in decline since 1979, Drucker reports that between 1978 and 1994, drug-related emergency room visits have gone up 60 percent (from 323,000 annually to 518,500), and overdose deaths increased by 400 percent (2500 to 10,000).  Drucker also draws a direct correlation between increased heroin-related fatalities to a dramatic rise in purity (from 6.7 percent in 1981 to 41.5 percent in 1996) and notes as contributing factors both a sharp decline in price and abundant supply.

 Inner-city minorities and the poor suffer most of the drug- and drug-law related harm.  Consider this: whites, blacks and Hispanics all use drugs at about the same rate, yet blacks are 3.5 times more likely to die from overdose and have 7.5 times more drug-related emergency room visits than their white counterparts.  Blacks are also four times more likely than whites to be arrested and 20 times more likely to be incarcerated for drugs.  On average Hispanics fair little better than African-Americans. One additional finding Dr. Drucker reports: Annual state and federal drug enforcement expenses are estimated at more than $40 billion, compared with less than $8 billion for all treatment, research, and prevention in the U.S. from all government and private sources.

 Dr. Drucker concludes, "From a public health point of view, drug prohibition is a disaster.  While our government officials claim success in reducing drug use, drug-related deaths and diseases have increased sharply.  That's the best measure of the impact of our drug policies - and they are failing."

 What should we do?  As for heroin, let's ask Dr. Doug Bovee, medical director of the CODA Addiction Treatment Services clinic in Eugene, Oregon, "Addicts go through agonizing withdrawal symptoms when they quit, including cold sweats, nausea, muscle spasms and bone and joint aches.  If they use heroin, within seconds it's gone," Bovee said. "It's so easy to relieve it with heroin."

 Rational people know there are more humane, intelligent and cost-effective ways to control access and reduce drug harm without resorting to such an expensive and socially damaging policy as this insane war on (some) drugs and so many people.  There is much more we could do to reduce drug-related harm and death, especially from heroin overdose.  That's why we must be reasonable and dispatch sacred political cows like this so-called War on Drugs that has ravaged the Constitutional landscape and fouled the social waters for far too long now.

 It's time for government to stop waging war upon its own citizens.  It's time for "Drug Peace!"

 (1) Dr. Drucker's article: <www.of-course.com/drugrealities>

 "If drug abuse is a disease, then drug war is a crime."

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The Stigma Continues

Name Withheld by Request

   I was a fire captain and paramedic for Fire Rescue until I fell seventeen feet at a fire one night, ending my career with fire rescue and instructing police officers at the community college.  The accident started my career in opiates and after three rehabs, two pain clinics, and one orthopedic rehab (six months), methadone seemed to be the only answer.

 However I've been labeled by my former coworkers (who were like a family).  They consider me to be a "junkie" because I'm on methadone.  I'm not invited to retirement barbecues, station parties, etc. anymore due to the stigma; although in 1989, I was voted the third most-respected captain out of fifty.

 I recently received my first issue of Methadone Today and enjoyed it very much.  We need more advocacy groups to assist us in educating the public and the medical community.  My wife and I are both on a methadone program and are very pleased with the results of the medication.  However, my clinic seems to go beyond state and federal rules on almost every issue.  Everyone seems to be treated as less-than-acceptable members of society.

 My wife was refused takehomes due to "not having a job."  We were told that this was State law.  She quit work long before her opiate addiction, which started after a terrible car accident, to be a stay at home mom.  She gave up $45,000 a year to be at home with our two daughters.  My income exceeds $70,000 a year and is more than sufficient.

 Well, I contacted the State and got copies of the law.  Guess what?  My income was sufficient for the State to allow my wife to get takehomes.  Even though her urines were clean for a year, she had to work her way to the top month by month.

 If my family doctor would prescribe it (I am a chronic pain patient and opiate addict), I could claim it on my insurance, as could my wife, thus paying $5.00 co-payments per month versus $600.00.  We also want to move to where it is a two-hour drive to the nearest clinic.  It is such a contradiction when doctors have advised that I have a morphine pump implanted but won't prescribe methadone even though it is permissible in this state now.  The problem I have encountered is a reluctance on the part of physicians to administer methadone due to the stigma attached to it.

 I suggest all patients get copies of State and Federal laws and question their clinics on issues such as ours.  I also received excellent information from my Senator's office with regard to any family physician being allowed to use methadone now for either pain or opiate maintenance.  END

 Both  State (each state listed separately) and Federal Regulations can be found online at: http://www.tir.com/~yourtype

 Or, federal regulations can be found in TAP 12, "Approval and Monitoring of Narcotic Treatment Programs" Call for your free TAP 12:  (800) SAY NOTO

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ARM--Getting Started Planning for the Future

by Malcolm Dickson

 The methadone advocacy group, Advocates for Recovery through Medicine (ARM), is moving forward after a recent meeting of the Board of Directors in Detroit, Michigan.  Since it was also the first time the founders of the group have ever met each other in person, it was an auspicious occasion indeed. It is also a sign that ARM will soon be active in furthering the education of those in positions to make changes through focused efforts where education is desperately needed.

 ARM is planning to operate as a methadone advocacy organization as opposed to a patient advocacy organization. NAMA has always been, and will continue to be, the pre-eminent patient advocacy organization, and ARM plans to  be a cooperative entity designed to hasten the goals on which NAMA has been working so diligently for years.

 It is obvious that many, many people across the country need to be educated as to the facts about methadone, and ARM hopes to become an integral part in the educating of America.  With a cooperative effort, there will undoubtedly be more attention focused on our plight. That attention from the public and the mainstream medical community is our chance to educate them both and end the ignorance and fear that surrounds methadone treatment.

 ARM is proud of the fact that it was started strictly over the Internet.  Even though some of the original people involved in getting things started lost interest over time, a core group believed so much in what we were doing that we overcame the obvious obstacle of being geographically separated by thousands of miles and persevered.  It proves just how dedicated ARM is to seeing methadone maintenance become a routine medical treatment instead of an anomaly so abhorrent it must be practiced in a separate building under totally separate rules and regulations!

 The meeting in Detroit, held March 12-14, was a very successful session.  Since ARM's plan is to take its effort nationwide, some very intricate planning will be involved.  It was agreed upon that a national effort, with media participation, coupled with a local effort in every possible town and city, would be an effective way to educate the greatest number of people possible.  While such a plan is obviously very ambitious, ARM believes that enough people already exist who are aware of the facts and are willing to share those facts with their friends and neighbors.

 ARM feels that one way to educate the masses is to put a face on methadone.  If the Special Education Teacher in Illinois, the Medical Doctor in Pennsylvania, the College Professor in Michigan, and the PTA President in Florida would all come forward and talk about how methadone saved their lives, the public's opinion would change a great deal.

 In other words, it is up to us--the patients and the family and friends of methadone patients.  Those of us who are living a stable life, working and supporting a family, integrated in our community, tasked with responsibility that we live up to all because we found methadone at a desperate time in our lives--it is up to us to come forward and tell people.  Stop hiding that part of our lives and step up and admit that methadone helped us become stable citizens.  This will make it much easier on the next person to admit.  Think of how many people didn't get help because methadone maintenance is so burdened with regulations that are needless and oppressive.  You can change that fact.  Join ARM and help us make methadone normal medicine.

 Even if you are not able to "go public," there will be other focused efforts to educate groups of people.  We still need members who can help us with daily tasks, planning, organizing, etc.

 If you would like to help, please notify ARM at arm-org@home.com or call (615) 354-1320.  We need you if you have two hours a week or sixty hours a week to donate.  The main qualification is reliability.  If you are reliable and do what you say you will do, we need you.


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 Excerpt from Methadone List

Following is an excerpt from the methadone list online (instructions on how to sign up): http://www.tir.com/~yourtype/methlist.htm

 I learned many years ago that counselors at MMT clinics are not there to help in most cases. I was going through a serious depression in my life and confided in my counselor.  The next thing I knew, I had to come in every single day until "they" felt I was not depressed any longer.  I was punished for being depressed and for confiding in a counselor, and I will never trust one again.  I cannot afford to go to my clinic daily; there are no other clinics close, and if there were, I would be on it.

 As far as a private counselor, I would not trust one of those either because of the type of job I have.  They do things that they "think" will help us,  but usually it only hurts us.  I realize that a patient has the right to file grievances, etc., but in my case, I cannot afford to go through anything like that.  If, for some reason, I told my counselor something, and he/she thought I should come in more often than I do, I could lose my job over it.  I could not get there and back to be to work each day, and I could not afford to drive that distance daily or even three times a week.  I had to learn this the hard way and will never trust again.

 As far as any counselor goes, I depict my life as perfect, and all is well.  I am never depressed, and I do not have any problems.  I have done it this way for years now, and it works great.

 I have learned to deal with my problems in other ways. This has not hurt my recovery at all.  Actually, when I was honest with my counselors in the past, that is what hurt my recovery.  Anyway, I just wanted you to know why I felt this way. The list has been really good for me I can tell you that.  I have met some great people here that I CAN talk to without the fear of being hurt in any way. Thanks for listening to this.



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