Sunday, September 26, 2010

Confusion. "What's Methadone"

Well, it's been a week since my first posting.   The task this last week has been to get my blog out into the cyber community, a task that was quite daunting, considering my only moderate computer skills.   Hopefully, I have achieved this and I can now concentrate on updating my blog.

The Methadone Maintenance Program,  "what's that, is it the name of a rehab centre"?  I asked.   Shane didn't answer, I guess he'd had enough talking by then, but the literature we were given to read was self explanatory:

The Methadone Maintenance program in New Zealand is a Government funded outpatient program operated from clinics by Community Alcohol & Drug Services, (CADS) in short.   Methadone is a synthetic Opiate based drug made purely for this program worldwide.   It is an oral drug administered daily to addicts to help stabilize their Opiate addiction.   It was first established in NZ in 1975, and it was originally introduced as a 'harm reduction program', to help contain the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, which can develop through needle sharing, and also to decrease the criminal activity that supports illicit drug use.   The process of eligibility into The Methadone program entails interviews with a CADS clinic doctor, regarding drug addiction history.   New entrants are then blood tested to verify drug use and also of any possible health risks he/she may have.   This evaluation for entry is very important as it allows the clinic doctor to prescribe the correct daily dose of Methadone each patient requires for their addiction.

The material wasn't very imformative about the drug Methadone itself, or the length of time treatment was for.   Shane was still taking drugs, albeit legal, on this program.   I think all in the family were struggling, like myself, to understand how replacing one drug for another was beneficial for a persons addiction.   But Shane was very positive and optimistic that Methadone would stabilize his addiction, and then he would withdraw off Methadone and exit the program.   Shane entered The Methadone Maintenance program in August 1994, and his goal then was to be off the program in 2 years.

Well, that goal and time frame back in 1994 never happened, and it wasn't that Shane didn't try to make it happen, but Methadone just made it difficult to achieve.   Methadone is actually more addictive than Heroin and harder to withdraw from.   Shane realised this once he started to withdraw down his daily dose of Methadone, and that's when his abuse of other drugs began.   The more he attempted to cut his Methadone dose down, the more he abused other drugs.   It became a vicious cycle of addiction.

Methadone treatment for drug addiction is a fallacy, and certainly not a treatment option I would recommend to others.   Methadone didn't help, it only compounded Shane's addiction.   Shane looked like and became  more of an addict on Methadone than he did on Heroin.    This is because, body tolerance to Methadone is higher than with Heroin, which also makes the Methadone detoxification process a lot longer than Heroin.   So in hindsight, swapping Heroin for Methadone wasn't the best solution for Shane.   The drug Methadone was to bring more destruction to Shane's life than any other drug he'd ever used.   Also, unbeknown to Shane, when entering this Methadone program in 1994, it was to lead to a fourteen year burden that would slowly destroy his body, mind and soul.   This fourteen year journey was to engulf his whole family with such sadness, having to witness Shane's despair, his many failed attempts to come off Methadone, and his addiction spiral out of control.   All he wanted was to be clean, all I wanted was to have my precious son back.

In 2004 and in desperation to help Shane, I commenced research to increase my knowledge regarding addiction, drugs and substances, and The Methadone Maintenance program.   The weeks and weeks of effort and computer technology rewarded me with an abundance of information, especially regarding The Methadone Maintenance program and the drug Methadone.   This knowledge did give me some understanding to the escalation of Shane's addiction while on The Methadone program.   But this insight also made the dream of Shane being drug free seem almost unobtainable.   It was a pity that the addictive nature of Methadone, and it's difficult withdrawal process wasn't fully explained in The Methadone Maintenance program information booklet.

I am not pro or anti Methadone, I acknowledge The Methadone program does have a purpose and place in our society for persons with addiction.   However, the whole program must be restructured to put more emphasis on achieving an end result for the participant, not just maintenance.   Participants shouldn't have to, or be permitted to exist on this program for years.   These participants, as Shane's reference to himself, just end up 'Methadone Junkies', who see no way out of the program, and without a time frame, plan, or encouragement, why most stay on it for years.   I am only referring to The Methadone Maintenance program operating in New Zealand.   Other countries Methadone programs may operate differently to ours her in NZ.

This is the first part of a campaign I propose to forward to the appropriate members of parliament within our NZ Government.   The focus and goal of my campaign will be to instruct fundamental restructuring of the entire Methadone Maintenance program and the services that operate around it.   This program must be streamlined for success, not just sustainability.   I will roll out more aspects of my campaign in furture posts.

I do apologise for the length of this post and hope I haven't bored you all to bits.   I intend to continue sharing Shane's fourteen years on The Methadone Maintenance program, and his journey through addiction hell, so keep tuning into my blog for updates.


  1. well certainly sound very knowledgeable on the Methadone Programme. I agree that there should be a time frame for addicts entering this programme, after all, isn't it supposed to be an interim measure to help them withdraw from their addiction to drugs? Interested to know what the taxpayer cost is for someone to stay on the programme for 14 years!!Look forward to your nest update.

  2. I do not have experience with a kid with heroine problems. My son would ingest ANYTHING to make him feel better...cough syrup, oxycodone, alcohol... I finally learned to detach with love, let go, love him and pray. I learned that in Al-anon. It isn't for everyone but it helped me. ::hugs:: I look forward to following your journey.


  3. Wishing you much success with your campaign to reform the Methadone Maintenance program in your country. I believe it's so important that we take a stand and get involved in this fight against addiction. I have to believe that together we can make a difference. Thanks for sharing and for caring!! I'll be following along and keeping you and Shane in my prayers.

  4. Methadone is a maintenance drug; not a fix and go medication (understand that some clients are on MMT for 'life' as they have tried many other methods without success). It allows the opioid addicted client to breathe goals, tasks and achievements back into their livelihoods. Hopefully this new lease on life allows the client to challenge the psychological aspect of their addiction (methadone clinics with an added counselling component see higher success rates). The underlying factors are the toughest to tackle however there is a 'measure of success' in 99% of clients entering an MMT program (though your correct, this does depend on the program philosophy). Fourteen years is a long time... the average length being from about five to ten years; before successful withdrawal is attempted; initially most clients wish to only be on MMT for a period of one to two years. I am currently working on a detailed analysis with regards to NZ methadone programs to log where this and other factors lay. The program I am involved with has taken on many steps to evolve into an appropriately client centred program. Many of our clients are in the long and winding road to tapering off successfully and some are resigned to life and have found success in family, professions and travelling... If someone were to ask them if they need to be off methadone to feel 'normal', chances are they would look at them and say who are you to judge (thought being; 'I have a loving family, healthy children, great job, good health'). So what I'm saying is that sometimes the stigma of what we want for another person/family member is more than what that person might actually need. I wish you and your son could have avoided this experience, i wish you well in your journeys.