Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jan 2004
Source: Bristol Herald Courier (VA)
Copyright: 2004 Bristol Herald Courier
Author: Jay Clarke
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Research has proven opiate addiction is a chronic relapsing disease of the 
brain. Like other chronic disorders, there is a medical treatment that 
helps to keep this disease under control. This treatment is opioid agonist 
therapy, in particular methadone maintenance treatment.

Methadone treatment was recognized by the American Medical Association as 
having proven public health and patient health benefits in 1999.

This declaration followed a 1995 report from the Institute of Medicine and 
a 1997 National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Panel. Both 
recommended that opiate addiction be treated more like other medical 
conditions. The Institutes of Medicine said that of all forms of drug 
treatment, "methadone maintenance has been the most rigorously studied 
modality and has yielded uniform positive results ... consumption of all 
illicit drugs, especially heroin, declines."

Addiction knows no boundaries. It is a disease that affects all segments of 
our communities. Methadone treatment gives hope to men and women caught in 
the devastation of opiate addiction.

Stigma is a major factor that impacts methadone treatment today. Patients 
experience discrimination in employment, vocational opportunities, from 
health care professionals (including some substance abuse treatment 
providers), and sometimes from their families and friends. Many supporters 
believe this attitude comes from the misinformation that surrounds the 

Research has shown that methadone maintenance is the most effective 
treatment for opiate addiction. It also has shown the longer a patient 
stays in treatment, the better the chance for success.

Methadone patients do not get high from their medication. Methadone does 
cause a physical dependence, but it is more like a diabetic's dependence on 
insulin, than the addiction to opiates. The behavior that in part defines 
addiction is non-existent in a stabilized methadone patient.

However, there are still those who are against the treatment. Some think 
patients should be weaned from their medication as soon as possible. While 
that goal may be obtainable for some, it has been proven most will need to 
be maintained on an agonist drug for long periods of time, some for life. 
Best treatment practices call for maintenance as long as necessary.

Patients receiving methadone see the quality of their lives improve 
dramatically. It should make no difference that a daily medication is needed.

Jay Clarke

Virginia Alliance of Methadone Advocates

Norfolk, Va.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman