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PEOPLE ADDICTED TO drugs often live in shame and fear of discovery because they face very real discrimination by the general public (“Me and My Monkey,”1/13). People who use methadone suffer not only from discrimination by the public, but by people in recovery as well. It is sadly true, as you say, that “peer-run addict self-help programs do not count time on methadone as “clean time’ ” (The Mail, 2/3). In fact, I have heard of people in methadone treatment who attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings and were asked not to talk, ridiculed, and even told to leave.
Methadone treatment is not used for the “unaddicted or low-tolerance junkie.” It is used for people who have suffered from years of heroin addiction and who have tried to recover without methadone, usually numerous times without success. It is for people who are at risk of contracting HIV, going to prison, neglecting their children, and generally destroying their lives and the lives of those around them, without the stabilizing effect that methadone provides.
You are absolutely right that methadone treatment can be onerous due to extremely restrictive federal regulations. However, discrimination against people addicted to drugs makes it unlikely that these regulations will be changed significantly. It might help if talented journalists like yourself who have insight into the nature of addiction would undertake a less biased study of methadone treatment. I know of many patients in methadone treatment who would love to tell how they overcame a dangerous, destructive, and despairing life of heavy addiction to reunite with their family, return to church, and become working, taxpaying citizens.
Executive Director, Center for Drug Treatment and Research, Koba Institute, Downtown