Whether the public or other people in recovery like it or not methadone treatment is not only the preferred methodology of choice of persons with Opiate Dependent Disorder, but it has been substantially better scientifically research than any other treatment available. Abstinence based treatment of 12 Step Programs have avoided been studied for a substantial amount of time. Not until third party payers including the federal government began to demand Evidence Based Treatment (which they started back in 197X with the Chief of Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration). Nevertheless Methadone patients have suffered more Stigma, Discrimination, Prejudice, Bigotry, Inequity, Injustice and Intolerance than any of the groups in recovery, and harm reduction approach.
These exist even though the research data is on Methadone for its safety and effectiveness if anyone cares to read at least the review of the scientific literature. You will find perhaps no scientifically based practitioner that would go against methadone as an effective and safe treatment approach. But when it comes to clinicians who perhaps have not read a scientific journal since they left college or know little about the science they assert they believe in, you will find few if any who would agree that methadone is the most effective methodology against illicit opiates.
Facing Stigma in the MMT Community
There is a tremendous weight put on recovering addicts who choose to use Methadone as a means of sobriety and it is suffocating. The media, society, friends and even sometimes our own families buy into the misinformation and make it harder on those of us fighting the demon that is addiction. They believe what the media is telling them. They believe we are just trading one drug for another. We are still getting high. We are not truly in recovery. We are labeled and our integrity is questioned. Utilizing Methadone as a means to recover from debilitating addiction is looked upon with scorn from the outside world.
The stigma surrounding our treatment is a huge obstacle getting in the way of our recovery. It’s a roadblock for those who would be utilizing Methadone Maintenance Treatment but don’t because all they get from conventional news sources is the stigma that is force fed in abundance. Imagine how many addicts would be that much closer to ending the cycle of addiction if they had both sides of the story? How many people in MMT would be that much more successful in their recovery if they had the support of their community? A lot of addicts in recovery leave MMT prematurely and end up relapsing because they too believe that Methadone is not recovery.
Despite the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that supports the fact that Methadone works successfully in the treatment of opiate addiction, many still don’t believe in its legitimacy. Nobody, not even most health care professionals themselves, believe that Methadone can be used as a tool to help heal an addict in recovery. There are MANY Methadone patients who will attest to the healing they gain from MMT, but nobody ever takes us seriously. That in of itself hinders us in our quest in gaining full acceptance on our road to full recovery. We need the help and acceptance of our community if we are to be totally successful in recovery.
What needs to be reversed is the moralization of addiction. There is a hardcore belief out there that addiction is a behavior problem, and not a legitimate disease. The belief that addiction is a “choice” is almost a national anthem. “Methadone is a crutch, and you’re just trading one drug for another” is another one we in treatment hear A LOT. “Methadone just prolongs addiction, and patients need to stop as soon as possible.” That’s another social stigma that is the total opposite of the truth. Many patients do better thelonger they remain in treatment. MMT is about much more than the medication. We are offered tons of support in the form of counseling and group therapy. In treatment we get help from our peers, nurses, and constant reassurance on our journey through recovery. The rule of thumb with MMT is you get out of it what you put into it. Like the old Al Anon adage: “It works if you work it, you’re worth it!”
The stigmas surrounding MMT is doing much more than make it hard on us patients and potential patients. It stops treatment from being offered outside of clinic settings, such as in jails, where it would probably do a lot of good. It would help curb a lot of inter jail drug dealing and use. It stops doctors from being able to prescribe Methadone in an office based setting like Suboxone is. Stigma has lead to children being taken from the family home of parents in MMT. Stigma is responsible for the way the clinic itself operates. By the laws enforcing dose restrictions, the supervised urine screens, restricting the amount of time patients stay in treatment and the moratorium on the formation of new clinics.
We as patients need to help reverse the stigma. To do that, we need to speak out and need not to be secretive and embarrassed about our success with MMT. Stop reinforcing the stigma by being bad patients and taking advantage of this life saving treatment modality, which just reinforces misinformation. Those who use MMT for other things besides recovery are just feeding the stigma surrounding us. We need to be mindful and realize that words do matter, and how we present ourselves to the world does reflect back on our treatment. We as patients can help put a new face on addiction treatment, and who is affected. We are your Brother, Sister, Mother, Father, Daughter, Son, Best Friend and maybe even your Accountant…