Methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone are all legitimate medicine assisted treatment (MAT) options for heroin addiction with a proven success rate. So this is not an anti-MAT article that criticizes genuine treatments and stigmatizes Suboxone or Methadone by claiming that using them is “replacing one drug with another”. In another article called “Suboxone and Methadone: The Brutal Truth About Medicine Assisted Treatment” we explain in great detail why those utilizing MAT as instructed and directed by a medical professional are adhering to the principles of recovery vs addiction. Thus, we believe those who select Suboxone, Methadone or Naltrexone (which includes the Vivitrol shot or the oral ReVia tablet) are clean and sober.
Methadone and Suboxone Patients are Dependent on Their Medication
But, there is a problem. People who use Suboxone and Methadone in particular become dependent on it. This means that their body will go into “shock” and thus, experience withdrawal if they don’t employ a taper and/or are stopped abruptly from taking their medication. See “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference?” This here, is where the problem lies. And this here, is where less than ethical Methadone clinics and Suboxone doctors have their patients in their clutches.
Abruptly Stopping MAT May Result in a Relapse, Heroin Overdose and Death
For whatever reason a Methadone or Suboxone patient can no longer obtain their medication, they will likely experience withdrawal. Opiate and heroin addicts typically choose MAT as a tool to help get them to stop using because they are deathly afraid of the heroin withdrawal they will experience if they go cold turkey off of it. So if a Methadone clinic or Suboxone doctor decides to cut off a patient’s medication, there’s a likely chance this patient will relapse and go back to using heroin. Those who relapse have an increased chance of overdose and as a result, death.
So you can imagine our shock and anger as an organization when we were told that by one of our members who happens to be a mother that her daughter died from a heroin overdose after she was booted from her MAT clinic for lack of payment. See “My Daughter Died – She Was Kicked Out of a State Program Because of No Money“. So we ask the question, should the state MAT clinic be held accountable for this woman’s death? Was the $150 or so that they couldn’t acquire for another week worth this woman’s life?
Punishing Methadone Clinics and Suboxone Doctors For Taking Away an Addict’s Medication
Addiction treatment centers, clinics, drug rehabs, organizations, ,etc. need funding to exist and thrive. Moreover, people need money to survive. Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide understands and has no problem with Methadone clinics and Suboxone doctors getting paid for good quality, ethical work. The best drug rehab facilities and MAT clinics will always work with existing patients / recovering addicts rather than discontinue their involvement if they can’t pay for a week or two. But those who treat patients like customers and care more about the money they’re putting in their pocket than the recovering addict’s well being, ,these clinics need to be shut down and even potentially punished.
Clinics that withhold a patient’s medication and/or boot them from the program are basically imposing a “forced relapse” on them. The fear of heroin or MAT withdrawal is often so strong that a recovering addict will relapse and use heroin again just to escape from feeling dreaded withdrawal symptoms. Those who relapse often aren’t aware that their tolerance went down and can’t use as much as they used to. So they overdose because their body goes into shock from too much heroin intake. Many heroin overdose victims die. So MAT clinics who withhold a patient’s medication or boot them from the program could be sentencing a recovering addict to death, much like a drug dealer.
Should Methadone clinics or Suboxone doctors be punished like drug dealers if someone they’ve booted out relapses and dies? Perhaps this sounds harsh, but how harsh is it to tell someone who depends on their medication or else they may experience excruciating side effects and withdrawal symptoms without it that they’re no longer going to provide their medication? Does this sound fair? Will the clinic go under and all of its employees be jobless if a couple patients can’t pay for one week? And how doe kicking them out of the program bring the clinic the money they’re missing? Wouldn’t it make more sense to work something out with the patient so that the patient’s needs are continually met while they work on resolving whatever financially difficult situation they fell into?
What about the MAT Clinic? What’s Fair For Them?
We understand that at some point, with ample warnings and/or trying to work with a patient who may not be paying for a long time, the MAT clinic may have to discontinue any working relationship with their patient. However, it is Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide’s opinion that removing them from the clinic should be a last resort after doing everything they can to give their financially challenged patient every opportunity to work things out. What is Your Opinion?
Giving Medicine Assisted Treatment a Bad Name
We’ve previously discussed that patients who abuse medicine assisted treatment programs by using other drugs while getting treated or by upping their methadone ultra-high give medicine assisted treatment a bad name, that and the patient drug dealers waiting outside methadone clinics in particular selling to anyone and everyone who aren’t serious and/or aren’t ready to fully commit to sobriety. But the fact that patients are so dependent on their medication and could lose it at anytime if a less than reputable / ethical MAT clinic decides to withhold it makes both Suboxone and Methadone less appealing.
So What’s the Solution?
MAT clinics need to stop treating their patients like customers. Treatment centers need to start putting a patient’s wellbeing ahead of profit. Recovering addicts should only choose Suboxone or Methadone if they’re serious and ready to commit to treatment. MAT clinics need to get better at educating recovering addict patients about the medication they offer, their program, dependency, tapering and the commitment.
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.