RECENTLY ON TOL:
- A tumblr site dedicated to the people and places that make up Oregon and Southwest Washington.
I used heroin in my late 20s, eventually using it up to 5 times a day for a year.
But thanks to methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), I've been clean for 15 years.
Before MMT, I tried quitting on my own, but after the detox period, I always returned to heroin.
The detox period is the week portrayed in many movies, when addicts suffer extreme withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, those movies imply that, once the withdrawal symptoms go, so does the addiction.
In reality, 90% of heroin addicts who detox will return to heroin.
Decades ago, this was mistakenly called "psychological addiction." Now scientists know that this, too, is physical addiction because the brain is a physical organ, physically changed by heroin.
So a heroin addict develops cravings for heroin comparable to the cravings that any person might feel for sleep, food, water, or sex. And the cravings for heroin persist, perhaps for life.
But methadone, in sufficient doses, all but eliminates cravings for heroin.
Some say methadone is just another addiction. Yet heroin addicts treated with methadone never crave methadone. If the methadone wears off, they just crave heroin.
Methadone does create a dependency, but dependency itself is not addiction. Addiction is a dependency characterized by an ever-worsening quality of life. In contrast, MMT improves one's quality of life. Studies show that the longer addicts receive MMT, the better their quality of life.
Ten years ago, prominent U.S. scientists in the field of addiction treatment held a national press conference announcing that MMT is a cure for heroin addiction -- and one far more effective than any other treatment for any other addiction.
But, they said, methadone is poorly administered in the U.S. via expensive, stigmatized clinics, where absurd restrictions are imposed and doses are often prescribed below therapeutic levels.
So the scientists called for legal reforms to permit regular doctors to treat heroin addiction with MMT outside specialized clinics.
Sadly, the scientists' suggestions have yet to be implemented in the U.S.
The time has come to consider heroin as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
So the question is, when will we give treatment a real chance?
posted 3 years, 1 month ago
view in context