Let's Stop The Insanity
Anthony Scro is a NAMA volunteer, founder of the NAMA affiliate Association for the Betterment of Addiction Treatment and Education (ABATE) and has been a methadone advocate for over 20 years.
It goes on and on. It seems like it may never end. We've all heard the same questions. Suffered the same humiliation. "When are you going to get off that stuff?" "Why do you need that much?" "Don't you want to detox or, at least, come down a little?" "Do you plan to be a methadonian for the rest of your life?" "How in God's name can you let that baby be born addicted to that poison?"
It seems incredible to me that the medication methadone, the primary means of effectively treating opiate addiction recognized by physicians, governments and countries all over the world, is as misunderstood now as it was when it was first introduced as a treatment regimen in the 1960s. In the "old" days, I naively believed that intolerant attitudes and controversies surrounding dose levels, length of treatment, take home policies and pregnancy would gradually dissipate due to a combination of education, documentation of positive results and the mere passage of time. Unfortunately, this enlightenment has not taken place. Rather, it has intensified to a point defying both reason and scientific reality. After many discussions over the years with advocates and critics of methadone, I am simply at a loss to explain a phenomenon whereby a drug with proven efficacy is so emotionally and unfairly criticized. I can only conclude that those suffering from this fear of methadone and/or hatred of methadone patients simply because they choose a certain form of treatment, have developed a diagnosable mental disorder which I call methaphobia. This condition, if not treated can be dangerous to your health and the health of methadone patients.
In past years, many of the judgmental statements and stigmatizing philosophies about methadone served to make patients feel "bad" about what they should be feeling "good" about. That was damaging enough. But today the stakes are much higher. In light of the therapeutic use of methadone in the fight against HIV/AIDS; it has been found that methadone works as a true HIV prophylaxis if a former injecting user follows the medically prescribed treatment plan and practices safer sex behavior. "Methaphobic" attitudes can be deadly, can actually cost lives if an opiate user is denied access to methadone simply because someone does not like the treatment method. Here are some recommendations for the treatment of "methaphobia", specifically addressed to those working in programs.
Take ownership of your attitudes. Accept them as yours and no one else's. Even if you do not wish to change them, take care not to transfer them onto your patients who rely on your objective guidance.