Real Drug Rehab, Not Methadone, Gives Addicts Their Lives Back

The makers and advocates of the prescription painkiller and narcotic addiction replacement drug methadone can add yet another damning scientific review to their burgeoning collection of methadone mayhem studies. A study just in from the Oregon Health and Science University shows that sudden cardiac death is a risk even when the drug is used at "appropriate" doses to treat pain or drug addiction. This reinforces the popular view that the opiate addicts and chronic pain patients who take methadone every day should be in a safe medical drug detox or drug rehab program instead of risking their lives with methadone."

For years the media has been reporting the growing methadone death-toll, but often incorrectly associates methadone replacement with drug rehab - a misnomer, since methadone for addicts is just the opposite of drug rehab. Addicts remain addicts, and instead of heroin they're hooked on methadone. Most stories report deaths from methadone overdose, but the Oregon study reported in The American Journal of Medicine says that many methadone deaths are not overdoses but result from normally prescribed dosages.

Only one-quarter of all sudden deaths associated with prescribed doses of methadone - not overdoses - had any detectable cardiac abnormalities that could account for the fatalities, the study says. Fatalities among a population not taking methadone showed more than a third involved cardiac abnormalities. The findings strongly implicate methadone as the cause of sudden death.

Methadone can be easily over-dosed as well: Because its depressive effect on the respiratory system lasts longer than its painkilling properties, patients take more to get relief and they wind up overdosing. It can also take several days before the effects of the drug are fully felt, which can lead people to take more and, again, overdose.

Methadone is a synthetic opioid drug, chemically unlike morphine or heroin, is equally addictive and creates the same effects in the brain. Methadone addiction is just as severe as heroin and morphine, and withdrawal symptoms last longer. Heroin and morphine addicts in methadone replacement programs who get into drug rehab also need to handle the methadone addiction along with their previous addictions. Thousands of others have needed drug detox and drug rehab because of addiction to methadone by itself. And thousands more have died, been injured, or required drug detox and drug rehab from taking only their prescribed doses of methadone for chronic pain.

Deaths from methadone are increasing in every state - rising more than 300 percent since 2000 - greater than the increase in prescriptions for the drug. In Utah, for example, state health officials reported that 70 percent of methadone deaths occur within a week of patients getting a prescription, changing their prescription, reestablishing use after being off the drug for a period of time, or first getting the drug from someone with a legal prescription. These findings appear to correspond directly to the new Oregon study.

It's the same story in every state, and despite the statistics, no state has taken the initiative to replace their state- and federally-funded methadone programs with real drug rehab programs. Drug rehab programs, which offer real freedom from addiction, are elbowed aside in favor of methadone addiction - easier for methadone clinic personnel, but not so easy on the addicts. Consider the long term denial of drug rehab because treatment professionals and local, state and federal officials lack the backbone to effectively confront and handle drug addicts and get them into drug rehab.

We aren't alone in thinking that "methadone addiction treatment" should be correctly renamed "methadone addiction continuation." Relatives, family members and friends of methadone victims have been signing online petitions by the thousands, demanding the drug be reclassified or even banned. But until drug officials opens their eyes and hearts to what's really going on and admit there are better ways, we are stuck with the killer drug.

Anyone who is using methadone, for any purpose legal or illegal, should be encouraged to stop listening to the official methadone propaganda and do their own research. Hopefully, most of them will make the decision to seek alternative treatment and, if there's any question of dependence or addiction, get into drug detox and a drug rehab program right away.

Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer who contributes articles on health.

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