Drug Rehab, Not Methadone, Will Save Thousands of Addicts’ Lives

If someone you know is taking methadone for any reason – pain management or addiction treatment are the usual reasons – tell them they’re playing Russian roulette with their life. Pain can be managed with safer drugs, and addiction is not solved by another addictive drug, but by drug rehab – which won’t unexpectedly kill you.Deaths from methadone overdoses and drug interactions are rising faster than any other prescription narcotic, including OxyContin, Vicodin and morphine, says the National Drug Intelligence Center (CDIC) in a new report. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says methadone overdoses killed 3,849 people in 2004, a 390% increase over 1999. More recent data from state health departments show the trend is continuing, with teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 suffering the highest methadone overdose rates.The amount of methadone dispensed by doctors increased 715% from 2001 to 2006, the CDIC report said. But the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory about methadone in November 2006 after the alarming trends in abuse and death became known.The problem with methadone is that it metabolizes slowly and can stay in the body for more than a day. Without careful dosing, methadone can build to toxic levels. Any interaction with another drug that also depresses the system can quickly lead to respiratory and heart failure and death.Tom Riley, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said prescription drugs have surpassed marijuana as the drug of choice for new users. “The larger story is the widespread abuse of prescription painkillers in America,” Riley said. “The abuse and misuse of prescription drugs is far more dangerous and far more widespread than most Americans realize.”Methadone has been prescribed since the 1940s as a pain reliever. More recently, it’s begun to be prescribed more often because of the problems associated with OxyContin. Part of methadone’s popularity was that it also cost less than other opioid pain medicines such as OxyContin that are also derived from opium. Instead of a solution, however methadone is now the new problem, a killer drug just like OxyContin.Widely used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and block the cravings of heroin addiction, methadone often takes precedence over proper drug rehab programs. And apparently it’s also cheaper for local and state governments to hand out methadone than provide proper drug rehab for heroin addicts.Meanwhile, thousands of addicts are patrolling the streets looking for heroin or other opiates, and settling for illicit methadone if they can’t get what they’re looking for. Most illicit methadone is obtained from other junkies who, instead of having their addictions treated in drug rehab, live day to day by sometimes selling or trading their methadone handouts.The exact number of people on methadone for ‘treatment’ of addictions to opiates is unknown, but is certainly in the tens of thousands – and all of them could have a chance to be drug free if they opted for drug rehab instead of a secondary addiction. Instead, hundreds of addicts are dying from methadone overdoses and drug interactions. Many thousands more are receiving methadone prescriptions for pain, risking opiate addiction and the need for drug rehab, if not a premature death.The idea that methadone is a good idea because it keeps addicts off heroin is as far from drug rehab as you can get. Drug rehab is just what the name says – rehabilitation – which is defined as “treatment, therapy, healing, remedy, or cure.” Keeping anyone addicted to any drug cannot be considered a healing remedy or cure. Rehabilitation, by its very definition, means getting off drugs for good, and the way to do that is through a real, honest drug rehab program.

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