The use of methadone accounted for more than 30% of all United States deaths from prescription painkillers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, methadone only makes up approximately 2% of the nation’s pain prescriptions. So clearly, there is something very dangerous and deadly about the drug if it can account for that many fatalities with an extremely small user base. An interesting fact to note, this is the drug that people are prescribed when they are trying to stay off heroin, does that seem strange to anyone else? That is not the only problem, not only is this dangerous drug used for opiate drug detox, but is also being used as a prescription pain reliever which is unbelievable!
Dangers Of Methadone
There are a number of dangers associated with the use of this drug. These are just a few of the more problematic ones:
- No room for error – When you look at the difference between a dangerous dose of methadone and a prescribed dose, you will see that the difference between the two is very small. This means that it is easy for someone to overdose on the drug accidently.
- Special risks – Unlike many of the other painkillers on the market, methadone comes with special risks. If a person takes the drug more than three times each day, it will build up in their system. This will lead to dangerously slowed breathing.
- Heart’s rhythm – There have been studies that have proven that methadone can seriously disrupt the heart’s rhythm.
- Other medications – When used with other prescription painkillers or tranquilizers, the drug can be particularly risky.
The Financial Problem
As previously mentioned, another reason that the number of deaths attributed to methadone are on a rise is that it is being prescribed more often. CDC officials are letting physicians know that safer alternatives are available; CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden even admitted that the number of people prescribed methadone for pain management has increased drastically. What might the reason be that this dangerous substance is being prescribed even though the number of deaths attributed to the drug is skyrocketing? Is it better than other drugs? Does it have magical healing abilities that other medications don’t? No, the reason behind insurers and hospitals wanting to prescribe methadone over other medication is, cost.
That’s right; even though there is clear evidence that methadone is more dangerous than these other drugs, is dangerously addictive with incredibly difficult withdrawal symptoms and after federal efforts to tell healthcare providers about the risks, there is no decrease in methadone prescriptions for pain management. Even if we look at the economic cost as a benefit, it is still a penny wise and dollar foolish. The number of people who have visited the emergency room, the number of people struggling with a newfound addiction and the number of people that have lost their lives could have all been avoided. Even if the insurance company or the hospitals manage to save a few pennies, the societal cost is much higher.
Replacing Heroin With Methadone
Most people think of methadone when they think about opiate drug detox. However, the problem is that methadone is nothing more than a source of income for people who are not interested in providing actual treatment, but would rather keep someone complacent. These individuals have to visit those methadone clinics every day to get their dose.
These individuals are getting enough to where they don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms, but how many people struggling with addiction are using to “avoid withdrawal symptoms?” Most people who struggle with drug addiction use because they want to feel the thrill of the drug, or they want to numb the pain that they may otherwise feel, whether it be physical or emotional. Prescribing methadone in a ‘maintenance’ amount is not going to keep the majority of these individuals from committing crimes to pay for more drugs and it is not going to stop them acquiring more narcotics through illegal means.
A number of reports from people who have been addicted, signify that withdrawing from methadone is more difficult than withdrawing from any other opioid – including morphine and heroin. People that have experienced the symptoms say that they feel horrific pain down into their bones and have difficulty getting rest, sleep and even come down with heavy flu-like symptoms.
Knowing that, knowing how dangerous methadone can be and realizing that it doesn’t provide a suitable alternative for heroin addiction, why is it still being used? Again, it comes down to cost. It is much cheaper to give someone methadone and send them on their merry way than it is to have them stay at any inpatient, residential treatment centers. It is much easier to tell them to come back tomorrow for their dose than it is to get to the underlying problem, why this person turned to drugs in the first place.
Drug Replacement Therapy
There are a number of clinics that administer methadone and try to provide counseling at the same time in the hopes of trying to deal with addiction. However, it should be noted that a patient here is still being fed the addictive mentality while they are being counseled for that very problem. How can a person get used to living a ‘normal’, fulfilling life when they have to make daily trips to the methadone clinic? This is not helping someone learn to deal with addiction and make better choices in the future, this is about replacing an illegal drug that benefits drug dealers and criminal organizations, with a legal one that benefits these clinics and pharmaceutical companies.
The Truth Behind The Drug
Until society as a whole demands medical treatment that respects everyone, not just those that have the finances to pay for it, clinics and hospitals will attempt to save money where possible by providing the cheapest alternative, even if it comes with deadly side effects. Though there may be a handful of cases of individuals for whom methadone treatment may be acceptable, these are long-term users who have damaged their physical or mental well-being and would not survive without the drug. For the majority of people, drug replacement is equal to putting a bucket outside during a rainstorm; it is there to show that people are trying but not actually doing something to stop it. It is shameful but true that we still need to have this discussion.