Secretly, I felt a like a poison pill. Up until this point in time, “I HAD ALWAYS SEEN METHADONE MAINTENANCE AS UNACCEPTABLE. THE TRUTH IS I HAD NEVER REALLY GIVEN IT MUCH THOUGHT BEYOND AN OFF-HAND DISMISSAL.” I began my work on the task force by plowing through research study after research study. I was really looking for evidence that the methadone medication-assisted model was not good practice. I didn’t find it. The preponderance of evidence supports methadone maintenance. There is solid evidence for the practice of methadone replacement therapy that has accumulated over a very long period of time that can be found even by an old skeptic like myself.
The evidence for methadone maintenance therapy shows reduction in illicit drug use, criminal activity, needle sharing, risky sexual behavior, suicide, and overdoses as well as improvements in health conditions, productivity, retention in therapy and cost-effectiveness.
The body of evidence that supports these conclusions is based on matching the client to the appropriate treatment and providing that client not only with medication but also structure, accountability and therapy.
My second contact with methadone medication assisted therapy was when I was asked to be the program therapist for the Sacred Heart Opiate Treatment Program. I discovered in the clients of the Sacred Heart Opiate treatment Program confirmation of the evidence provided by all that research. “EVERYDAY I SAW MIRACLES. MEN AND WOMEN, WHOSE LIVES HAD BEEN RAVAGED BY HEROIN OR PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADDICTION, BECOMING HEALTHY, GOING TO WORK AND TAKING CARE OF THEIR FAMILIES.” I saw these individuals at various stages of their recovery.
Pregnant women whose maternal instinct was to protect their babies, but who could not escape the overwhelming power of their addiction, stabilized on methadone, bringing them and their fetus into a medically controlled support system.
New clients would come into the clinic beat down by their disease after many fervent attempts at quitting. Most had undergone more than one detoxification episode only to return to illicit use because they never really felt normal without some sort of opiate augmentation in the same way that a diabetic never really feels normal without insulin.
Truly, methadone maintenance is a program of progress not perfection, but through medication assistance and persistent therapy, science is transmuted into life.
-Sacred Heart Therapist