Pubdate: Fri, 17 Jan 2003
Source: Johnson City Press (TN)
Copyright: 2003 Johnson City Press and Associated Press
Author: Robert Peets


EDITOR: I am not an expert on methadone treatment; the recent local events,
however, have prompted me to educate myself on the subject, and I thought
that the citizens of Johnson City might benefit from the information.

First, methadone treatment for addiction has been scientifically validated
to reduce heroin and other opiate use, reduce criminal behavior associated
with drug use and promote increases in social behavior such as employment
and interpersonal relationships. It sounds almost too good to be true.

Unfortunately, there are aspects of treatment that, if not maintained,
appear to produce total failure. First, a therapeutic dose of methadone must
be maintained. Second, and probably more importantly, the relapse rate is
extremely high if methadone treatment is discontinued.

I am not aware of the proposed methadone clinic's policies on these issues.
Most methadone clinics, however, have a very strict set of criteria to enter
the program. Many patients routinely are prescribed below therapeutic doses,
and there are definite limits to the amount of time a person can remain in

Why do most methadone clinics not provide the treatment that has been
scientifically validated to be effective? Because to do so would contradict
our public policy on drug abuse. I guess we feel like if we give a heroin
addict methadone, it's like giving a drunk driver a bottle of tequila and a

A more appropriate analogy is: methadone treatment is like treating
schizophrenia with anti-psychotic medication or depression with
anti-depressant medication. Treat opiate addiction with methadone. It works.

Addiction is a medical issue but is treated in public policy as a criminal
issue. This leads to methadone treatment centers which try to punish and
treat at the same time, accomplishing little. Maybe one day we will align
our policy with the validated science and actually begin winning this "war
on drugs."

Johnson City
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