Abstinence-based programming is, by far, the most common approach for treating substance use disorders and addictions. While it is the most optimal outcome health-wise, chronic substance and alcohol use can have such sever effect on the brain that immediate abstinence is too difficult no matter the desire to stop.
Drugs like opiates (e.g. heroin, morphine, fentanyl) have an intense influence on the release of dopamine in the brain. This alters the pleasure-reward systems so much that it begins to control the individual’s behaviours to ensure it is constantly activated (i.e. stimulated) and avoiding low levels of dopamine (withdrawals). For many people with this sort of experience, abstinence likely seems impossible. But living a normal life isn’t impossible.
Opiate substitutes like Methadone and Suboxone allow individuals with opiate addictions to pursue a stable existence and life. Unlike other opiates, Methadone takes longer to metabolize in the body. This means users don’t experience withdrawal symptoms as fast. With longer periods between withdrawals and knowing that you’re receiving a constant dose, individuals can redirect their time towards more personally meaningful and beneficial activities rather than finding ways (sometimes criminal) to finance their drug use.
The Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) program has operated in BC since the 1990’s. Earlier this year, Methadone had some drastic changes. Previously, patients would attend a pharmacy daily to receive methadone – a powder solution mixed with a sweet drink (often Tang) by a pharmacist. The new medication (being offered in BC since February 2014) has be renamed Methadose – a cherry-flavoured premixed solution. Chemically, it is the same as its predecessor, but now is 10 times stronger than 1 mg/ml of Methadone.
Methadose was developed to reduce the likelihood of abuse such as injecting it versus ingesting it orally. Methadose congeals underneath the skin or in the veins and can cause abscesses and discoloured, swollen arms. This change is similar to the transition from Oxycontin to OxyNEO.
This new dosing system is also intended to prevent/reduce black market sales. According to a long-term user in Vancouver, pharmacists would dilute (add less methadone) in the old solutions they’d give to patients, then sell the rest. He, himself, admitted to buying methadone illegally from the back door of a pharmacy.
One of the biggest concerns with this changeover to Methadose is the increased risk of overdose. For people who abuse methadone and don’t know about BC’s transition to a more potent solution may ingest a drug that is way stronger than they are aware of. People who have been regularly receiving diluted Methadone may also have an increased risk of overdose when they begin taking Methadose.
Another major complaint that has arisen since Methadose’s arrival is it’s short life time. Long-time MMT participants have reported they felt withdrawal symptoms much faster than when they were on the original solution. Unable to get more Methadose in their prescription or return back to the original solution, many have reported to using heroin and other illegally purchased substances as a supplement between their Methadose times.
This is the exact opposite of what the MMT’s original intention was when implemented (we hope anyways). Currently, BC’s Minister of Health said the province was looking into the effectiveness of Methadose after hearing the many concerns of long-term stable participants.
Have you experienced a similar situation with the new Methadone? What have you done to address its shorter effects? We want to know.
Alternatively, if this change has made you consider tapering off Methadone completely, contact us to discuss your options in BC, Alberta, Ontario, and the rest of Canada for Methadone detox and treatment.
- Methadose and the Policy for Methadone Maintenance Treatment
- Methadose Drug Factsheet
- Changes to Methadone Coverage in BC
- Is Ontario Following BC into Methadone Chaos?
- IS BC’S NEW METHADONE LEADING SOME PATIENTS BACK TO HEROIN?
- Ontario Changes to Methadone Program a Mistake, BC Patients Warn.
- METHADONE DOSES ARE ABOUT TO GET TEN TIMES STRONGER IN BC