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Several years ago while in active addiction, I began to feel desperate about my situation – wanting to do anything to quit using opiates. I didn’t know anything about addiction and recovery so, when a “using buddy” suggested going to the methadone clinic, saying it was a solution to my situation, I jumped at it. I didn’t know anything about methadone or methadone clinics, either, and blindly enrolled in a program. Here are 5 things no one tells you about going to a methadone clinic that I wish I had known before I sought methadone out as a “solution” to my drug problem.

First, and for most, methadone is a drug, and a very powerful one at that.

And not only is it any kind of drug, methadone is an opiate, just like heroin is. It confounds me that there is so much “information” out there stating that methadone is a successful way of treating opiate dependence. Well, of course it is. That is, if your definition of successful opiate treatment is to substitute one opiate for another with the goal of putting off the inevitable:  intense withdrawal symptoms. The fact is, methadone is a synthetic version of heroin that is prescribed legally so that people don’t go about living the druggie lifestyle. But methadone doesn’t make addiction go away and it doesn’t solve anything. I was on methadone maintenance for 8 months and it was no cake-walk. I had to get up very early every morning to travel half an hour to the methadone clinic. Every day like clockwork, around noon or 1 o’clock I had to take a nap because I was so groggy. Life certainly wasn’t normal. And, I still found myself going out and using other drugs. Because I am an addict – it doesn’t matter what the substance is. Addiction has everything to do with the person, why they use, what emotional pain they are numbing – and relatively nothing to do with the actual substance or substances of abuse.

It’s harder to get off methadone than it is to get off heroin.

Because methadone has a longer half-life than heroin, withdrawal from it is slower and longer if one was to stop taking it suddenly, or going “cold turkey.” Medically supervised withdrawal, where the client is gradually decreased over time under a doctor‘s supervision, can lessen the severity of the withdrawal symptoms but it is an inevitability that you will experience some withdrawal while tapering and when you finally stop altogether.

It takes a long time to get off methadone.

A general guideline is a 1:1 ratio for “trouble-free” detox. For example, if you have been on a dose of 100ml for one year means that it can take 18–24 months to detoxify safely. At high-maintenance doses, sudden cessation of therapy can result in withdrawal symptoms described as “the worst withdrawal imaginable,” lasting from weeks to months. Here is one person’s testimony:

“It took me eight years to get off it. But it took that many years because I was being cautious, I was in no rush to be off it completely, and I paused the decrease if I ever felt the slightest discomfort in order to let my body adjust.”

This, after 2 years of heroin addiction. The logic here is non-existent. How is trading 8 years of being dependent on methadone (an opiate) for 2 years of being dependent on heroin (also an opiate) worthwhile?

It’s expensive and usually not covered by insurance plans.

Although substance abuse, physical dependence, and addiction are considered medical conditions, treatment for opiate dependence with methadone is not a necessary form of treatment. Insurance companies rarely, if at all, cover methadone treatment for those addicted to opiates. And methadone treatment is expensive. For example, I had to pay $175 up front the first day I went and then $12 every day. That’s over $300 a month! And, that’s pretty much all profit for the methadone clinic and its industry. Methadone is basically legal heroin that is being dealt indirectly by the government.

The goal is not to help you get off drugs.

It’s called methadone maintenance for a reason. The overall goal of methadone clinics is not to help you get off of opiates; it’s to keep you complacent while steadily upping your dose. After only a couple of days of going to the clinic, I changed my mind about wanting to do a methadone maintenance and suddenly stopped going. I actually felt alright. But then my counselor from the clinic called me to see why I hadn’t come. She told me that I might feel OK for now but that I will undoubtedly start getting sick and that I needed to come back. Again, I didn’t do my homework. My counselor put the fear of facing extreme withdrawals in me and I went back. This is my opinion, of course. But, why would you need to be on methadone for years and years? And what is the need for increasing your dosage? It’s obvious that the agenda of methadone clinics is not to wean you off so that you are no longer dependent on it or any other opiate.

I stayed on methadone for 8 months altogether until one day, I decided I was done with it and quit cold turkey. I had no idea what I was in for. It took me 2 months to begin to feel normal again. Today, I am drug-free and have been for over a year. I don’t need methadone or any other drug to keep me clean and sober. I work a program of recovery and my life is amazing.

If you or a loved one is struggling with opiate addiction or methadone addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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