Shackled to a Methadone Clinic

Let's talk about methadone clinics - the good, the bad and the ugly.

She’s been going to the same clinic for five years. Every day, she takes a bus, walks the last two blocks from the bus stop and gets in line for her dose of methadone.

Five years ago, Kathy decided she needed help to break her Vicodin addiction. Someone told her about a clinic that offered “methadone therapy,” and even though Kathy didn’t know a lot about methadone, she heard it prevented withdrawal. Terrified to feel those sickening waves of nausea, debilitating physical aches, round-the-clock sweating and never-ending bouts of diarrhea, Kathy was more than willing to give Methadone a chance, after all she wanted to get clean.

While Kathy didn’t go through opiate withdrawal, she still gets sick if she doesn’t make it to the clinic for her daily methadone dose. Knowing she’s firmly shackled to yet another medication, Kathy’s asking herself a really tough question: Am I really better off now than I was five years ago?

The Never-Ending Escalator

Peter’s been in a methadone program for 11 years. After a car accident, he developed an addiction to OxyContin – one that nearly ruined his life. He was thankful that methadone provided a way to help keep his withdrawal symptoms at bay.

What Peter wasn’t focused on was the fact that his methadone dosage had gone up 300 percent during his decade long treatment, with no plans to wean him off the drug. He’s now dependent on methadone. But, no alternatives are offered at the clinic; so they just kept increasing his dosage – further perpetuating the cycle.

The Short Leash

Hillary wanted to go away for the weekend with her friends. They were going camping, which sounded like fun, but Hillary had to say no. She made up an excuse – she couldn’t leave town because she had to get to the methadone clinic every day. If she didn’t, she would get extremely sick. Her “treatment” had being going on for years and she knew a missed dose wouldn’t be pretty. It was so frustrating to feel like a methadone prisoner, but at least she could function enough to hold down a job.

Is it All About the Money?

With over 250,000 Americans enrolled in methadone clinics, these stories are becoming more and more common. Methadone maintenance programs are designed to help people who are addicted to opiates – heroin and OxyContin for example. Patients need just one dose a day in order to avoid withdrawal.

But some methadone clinics don’t have a solid taper-down protocol, which means your treatment could go on forever. One missed dose and you’re sick from withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, cramps, muscle pain and in some cases life-threatening side effects.

Methadone clinics and manufacturers are part of a billion-dollar industry that has spread to every city, making it much more profitable for people to continue with decades of treatment. With little to no alternatives being offered, those struggling with a opiate dependency are slowly but surely turned into lifelong consumers. They become shackled to methadone and, much like Kathy, unknowingly trade one addiction for another.

Image Source: iStock

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