All chronic diseases have a behavioral component, and that’s what you’re dealing with—a chronic disease. The problem with the methadone community is we have too many people who think methadone is a magic bullet for that disease—that recovery involves nothing more than taking methadone.
This view is reinforced by people who, with the best of intentions, proclaim, “Methadone is recovery.” Methadone is not recovery. Recovery is recovery. Methadone is a pathway, a road, a tool. Recovery is a life and a particular way of living your life. Saying that methadone is recovery let’s people think that, “Hey, you go up to the counter there, and you drink a cup of medication, and that’s it. You’re in recovery.” And of course, that’s nonsense. Too many people in the methadone field learn that opiate dependence is a brain disorder, and they think that that’s all there is to it. But just like any other chronic medical condition, it has a behavioral component that involves how you live your life and the daily decisions you make.
If opioid replacement therapy (or medication-assisted treatment) should be more than just taking medication, and the medication appears to interfere with the effectiveness of the behavioral treatments*, where does that leave us? What is it about the drug that interferes? (Earlier this week I posted a link to a study the found blunted emotional responses in buprenorphine patients. Previous studies have found impaired cognitive function .)
Also, keep in mind that the drug use outcomes this study focused on were 3 consecutive negative drug screens, 6 consecutive negative drug screens and the average number of negative drug screens. These outcomes measures tell us something, but these are not the outcomes that addicts and their families will measure their success by. At the same time, subject satisfaction rates with buprenorphine were very high. (85%)
How can you build a recovery-oriented treatment model, when the patient is somehow rendered immune to our other tools?* Will they benefit from mutual aid? Does whatever’s going on impact quality of life?
I’ll also throw in a reminder from a previous post about were I stand on ORT:
Just to be sure that my position is understood. I’m not advocating the abolition of methadone.
Here’s something I wrote in a previous post : “All I want is a day when addicts are offered recovery oriented treatment of an adequate duration and intensity. I have no problem with drug-assisted treatment being offered. Give the client accurate information and let them choose.”
Another : “Once again, I’d welcome a day when addicts are offered recovery oriented treatment of an adequate duration and intensity and have the opportunity to choose for themselves.”