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Methadone Programs: A Bad Treatment Plan for Addicted Parents?

When it comes to the negative effects of substance abuse, addiction casts a wide net. Addicted parents, in particular, are faced with a unique set of challenges, as an opiate dependency ultimately affects the whole family.

For thousands of parents hooked on opiates like heroin and OxyContin, methadone maintenance programs promise to open the doors of sobriety. What they don’t tell you, however, is that the rate of recovery among this specific demographic is dismal at best.

Parents Receiving Methadone Treatment

For opiate-addicted parents receiving treatment via methadone programs, the rate of recovery is dismally low, according to a 2011 study. Of the 144 parents in methadone treatment, only 13.2% of parents (19 people) remained in recovery and drug-free 10 years later.

Another 14 (9.7%) met the criteria for recovery after 5 to 10 years. 10 could not be located or contacted. And 34 (24%) had died. The remaining 46% had either used drugs or were incarcerated.

Among the parents who participated in the Washington-area study, 41% said they had participated in some form of drug treatment every year, and 32% were in methadone treatment every year. For 43%, methadone use was intermittent.

The Snowball Effect of Methadone

While opiate addiction clearly has far-reaching negative effects, a core group of horrific problems are generally associated with a parent’s use of methadone. Those problems can include:

  • Legal Issues and Incarceration Arrests and convictions were common. A majority (90%) of the parents had some criminal record and 54% reported a period of incarceration over the last 10 years. This is compared to the 30% lifetime prevalence rate of arrests in the United States.
  • Overdose and Death Mortality rates are much higher for parents using methadone than for heroin users in general. 32 (25%) of the 130 families in the study experienced the death of an addicted parent, and in 2 cases, both parents had died before the 10-year follow-up interview. This compares to a 7.5% mortality rate in the general population of Washington State, and a 14.8% mortality rate among heroin users in the Seattle area.
  • Mental Health Problems Mental health issues were more prevalent among the study participants than in the overall population. Researchers found that nearly half (48%) of the parents met the criteria for a major depressive disorder in the last 10 years, and 21% said that their mental health was not good every day.
  • Lack of Employment Unemployment rates were also significantly higher among the parents in the study than those of the overall population. More than half (52%) of parents said they were not employed in the year prior to the follow-up interview, whereas the overall unemployment rate for Washington State was 5.5% in 2005.
  • Homelessness Homelessness was also a problem for many of the parents. More than a third (36%) reported at least one year of not having a place to live in the past decade. Men and women were equally likely to have experienced homelessness, and 4 parents reported being homeless during the entire 10-year period. Parents in long-term recovery were less likely to have been homeless (5.3%) compared to those in shorter-term recovery (35.7%) or those still using drugs (44.8%).

The Ultimate Victims

The study also illustrates how a parent’s drug or alcohol addiction impacts their children. Most of the children of study participants had struggled in school or at work, had abused drugs, and/or had a criminal record. Only 24% of the children met the criteria for “functional resilience,” which meant that they were engaged in school or work, had not abused drugs, and had avoided criminal charges in the last 5 years.

Overall, the study offers some insight into the struggles of parents who are struggling with addiction. It also illustrates that the likelihood of being gainfully employed, maintaining a home, enjoying good health, and providing a functional home life is far greater if a person is able to get clean and maintain long-term recovery.

How to Find Help for Drug or Alcohol Misuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional addiction treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a happier and healthier life. You can contact a caring admissions navigator with American Addiction Centers (AAC) free at . You can also check your health insurance coverage using the form below or contact free drug and alcohol hotline numbers.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

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