Mainstreaming Methadone

  Mainstreaming Methadone

Posted by FoM on March 14, 2000 at 06:56:30 PT
By Adam Pasick   
Source: FoxNews 

Recovering heroin addicts may soon be getting methadone straight from the doctor's office. Methadone, a synthetic opiate, is used to treat addiction to heroin and other narcotics. Government regulations currently restrict distribution of the drug to stand-alone methadone clinics — a practice that needs to change, according to advocates for recovering addicts. 
"So many of the clinics treat patients badly," said Beth Francisco, of Advocates for Recovery Through Medicine, who has received methadone treatments for the past 11 years. "The clinics are a monopoly — you can treat the people badly because they don't have anywhere else to go." It's not just recovering addicts who are lobbying for the shift. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is also on board, and a recent poll found the vast majority of physicians at urban health facilities and HIV/AIDS clinics would be willing to dispense methadone from their offices. "These practitioners, who are already caring for the populations and communities most in need of more addiction treatment, are supportive of extending methadone treatment to mainstream medical practice," said Dr. Ernest Drucker of Montefiore Medical Center, head author of a study in this month's Journal of Urban Health. A Lifetime of Treatment: Methadone treatment has been segregated from mainstream medicine largely because of controversy over so-called maintenance therapy, in which recovering addicts take methadone indefinitely — even after physical withdrawal symptoms have passed. But there is a growing acceptance for maintenance therapy, especially with new evidence that heroin addiction permanently rewires the brain.  "People addicted a long time have changed their brain chemistry," Francisco said. "For them, [methadone] is just like insulin or blood pressure medication." Although she's been a stable, recovering addict for more than a decade, Francisco is barred from receiving more than a few days' worth of methadone at a time. "I've been in the clinic for 11 years, but the most methadone I can get is six daily doses," she said. "Most people have to go in [to the clinic] at least twice a week, and many have to go daily." She added that the mainstreaming of methadone would change the way society treats recovering addicts. "A lot of the stigma against methadone is linked to the clinics," she said, "because we're segregated." The Journal of Urban Health study showed that not all physicians were ready to dispense methadone from their offices. In response to various queries, one-third of those surveyed said they would not prescribe the drug, 30 percent said they were not comfortable "managing the care of drug users" and 28 percent were not convinced methadone was effective. But for the remaining majority, Drucker said, "methadone is not laden with stereotypical fears about bringing drug addicts into their practice. They see methadone as another useful tool for managing the overall health of their patients." Drug Czar in Favor: Even as the debate over methadone maintenance therapy continues, the federal government is moving towards loosening its restrictions. Barry McCaffrey, the White House drug czar, "is strongly supportive of expanding methadone treatment as a way to get people off heroin, away from crime and into tax paying, responsible positions," said Bob Weiner, a spokesperson for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The agency supports "expansion of the role of physicians and primary care physicians — as long as proper training and protections against diversion of the drug to criminals and improper recipients is provided," he added. "Ultimately, [methadone] will end up being a prescription drug," said Mark Webber of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "The whole purpose is to provide access to quality treatment for people in need." Not for Everyone: Addicts straight off the streets still need to go to clinics, Francisco argued, where they can receive the counseling and support services they need to stay clean. "Our vision is to get the stable patients out of the clinics," she said, "those who have been stabilized on their dose, who pass their urine tests [screening for illicit drugs]. Those are the people who should be moved out to the doctors' offices. That would leave more room for patients who are not currently in treatment." The powers that be seem to share her sentiment, but they are still moving with extreme caution. "You've got to protect against improper use and distribution," Weiner said. "In that context, we definitely want to move forward." For comments write to comments; For Fox News Channel comments write to: comments 7:00 a.m. ET (1200 GMT) March 14, 2000© Associated Press. All rights reserved.© Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.© News Digital Media 2000. CannabisNews Articles On Methadone:

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Comment #1 posted by william stewart on April 11, 2001 at 08:54:34 PT:

i would like to know if there any doctors in ny city nj or philadelphia,that can prescibe methadone on a bi weekly or monthly basis
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