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My Life on Methadone - Name withheld by request
Giving Birth on Methadone: My Experience -
Doctor's Column - Orlaam, Methadone
name withheld by request
I had two children and a family who all needed counseling because of me. At the last institution, I told my family, the people in the institution, and myself that if I could not stay clean that time, I would take a gun to my head and end my life. I was very serious about this, and everyone knew it. My mother even said, "Yes, please do--we just can't take any more of this, and those kids shouldn't have to see any more of it."
Then, someone at the rehab told me about methadone. He said it had worked wonders for his mother, "It's better than killing yourself," he told me, "especially to make your children live with the thought of how their mother died."
I didn't think too much about what that person said because I was determined to make it work, no matter what. I tried so hard, but I just never felt like a normal person. I couldn't even have sex comfortably without feeling very uncomfortable. I had a very supportive boyfriend who only wanted a drug-free relationship. He made that perfectly clear; I love him for that and because he doesn't do any drugs or even smoke cigarettes either.
When I realized that I couldn't keep this up, I started looking into methadone clinics and found relief in my life finally after 23 years of using and trying all kinds of ways to quit. Since starting this program, I was scared and skeptical about the things I have heard about methadone. When I made up my mind to get on methadone, I told myself that this is your only change, girl; it's this or nothing.
I suddenly started feeling normal, and it felt great. I wanted to do all kinds of things with my kids, but they were almost grown now and had a full life, so I checked out a GED book from the library, found out when the school was having their next test, studying that book day and night, and I passed the test.
Then I started looking for work and found a perfect job helping the mentally handicapped. I worked at the group homes and a workshop too. I found them jobs, I trained them to do the jobs, then I'd job coach them too. I'd work anywhere from 65 to 75 hours in one week for very little pay. I didn't care--I just knew this was what I was good at, and I loved working with them. Since then, I was promoted several times, but I wanted more. I wanted a career--something I never thought could ever have. So, quit my job and went to college.
All the money had made from those long hours went into the bank. I never had a bank account before, and now have a checking, savings, and a Money Market account too. I bought my own car, pay my weekly clinic bill of $70 per week, and all the regular household expenses. I support my kids, both of whom are on the honor roll; my son is in college, and send him money too--it feels great that can. I pay my own way in life and don't take handouts from anyone. I'm the one handing out now, and it feels good. I am currently working part time, and am in my second year in college.
Thank God for my counselor at my clinic too; without her help in so many things, I don't know what I would have done because my life has turned completely around, and I'm doing all the wonderful things that a normal person should do.
I have still had lots of obstacles to overcome. I have been fired from a job because they found methadone in my urine, my fiancé cheated on me with prostitutes--something I used to be. He caught gonorrhea and gave it to me while I was putting in all those doubles and too many hours at the first job. I did it because I couldn't say no and partly because I didn't want to. I loved those big checks. I wanted to kill him, but I didn't even think about using drugs. I knew that I could leave him if I wanted to and take care of myself just fine. I know that I am a great person now, and if he screws up again, I'm out of there.
I'm currently working part time and going to college part time
with a 3.75 grade point average. I'm married and saving for a big
house in the country; life is great! I owe it all to the methadone
clinic, my counselor, the staff there who has given me a lot of helpful
study tips for college and who make copies of my report and show it around
every time I get it. They are all just great. I am the best
success story ever, I think.
It's a shame that I still have to keep all this a secret. No one knows that I'm on methadone, and if they did, they would disown me again, and I would be fired from my job. I really wish we could change people's outlook on this, but I know some of these people personally, and I've dealt with the prejudice too. I intend to stay on methadone and continue to make my life the best that it can be.
Thank you for letting me tell my story.
Editor's Note: This story is unfortunately all too typical.
This is one thing that advocacy works to change--this very real stigma.
"ARM" -- NEW METHADONE ADVOCACY GROUP!
About ARM and YouARM is the creation of many long-time advocates who saw the need for a national organization to support their needs and requests for assistance in the educational/media/political arenas. Without an expanded membership, we are all simply lone persons trying to convince elected officials that OA therapy is a viable, effective, and lifesaving treatment for victims of narcotic addiction. Although we have reams of medical, scientific, and socioeconomic data to prove those assertions, that is not enough. ARM needs you to add your voice to the tens of thousands of other voices we know are already out there. Then we will be heard by those in a position to change the current prejudicial, stigmatized, in some cases incompetent, and frequently uneducated and ignorant attitudes that exist -- those that, in turn, affect every OA treatment patient at the patient level.
With one very large voice, composed of many individual voices,
we will be spreading our message by disseminating information and
engaging in activities designed to simply force policy makers do the right
thing, both under the law and in accordance with medical standards of care.
With the addition of YOUR voice, we can fulfill our mission much more quickly,
effectively, and with greater authority as a group that will soon become
well-known to all these entities and with a reputation that we have credibility
and mean business.
The Community and ARMARM intends to use that voice in a way that will benefit both those in need of treatment and those who simply want a safer, more stable community. Many do not realize that when OA treatment is offered within a certain community, the addict-related crime drops significantly. Methadone advocacy has now reached a time when, by working as a large, focused group, we can change the way we all think about this highly effective treatment.
Despite the fact that methadone,
the most common form of OA treatment, is endorsed by organizations such
as the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, American
Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and even the
current Drug Czar, as well as dozens of other well-respected and well-known
medical societies and individuals with expertise in the field, only about
1 in 10 addicts avail themselves of this treatment. We believe that
is in part due to unavailability of treatment slots in many areas (and
even entire states), but also because the "clinic system" as it now exists
is not designed to meet the needs of those who are serious about recovery
and who demonstrate long-term compliance with the most stringent regulations
The Clinic and ARMThe clinic system that was supposed to protect us has also emerged as a harshly punitive system, with many clinics adopting attitudes that tend to intimidate patients into following the rules and, more generally, treating their patients with very little respect. There are rare and refreshing exceptions to this generalization, but even the "best" clinics, those that are most patient-friendly and respectful, are still stuck with a bureaucratic haze of regulations that make no sense in many patients' cases and that increase the cost of this nonetheless comparatively cost-effective treatment. But the worst "cost" is to the patients themselves and the way this long-term overregulation and maltreatment of patients is known in the addict community and causes active addicts to refrain from seeking help and recovery through OA treatments. ARM believes that just as punitive measures and intimidation are inappropriate in other medical treatments, they are inappropriate in this treatment as well.
Active addicts in some areas, who cannot commute the 75-200 miles
to the nearest clinic, are not able to conform their hours of employment
to many clinics' unusually short, nonnegotiable hours of operation.
They also may not be able to afford the $50-$100 weekly clinic fee.
These addicts comprise the majority of the market for illicit methadone--not
the person who has never taken opiates. And, like a Catch-22,
anti-methadone groups frequently point to incidents of methadone diversion
as a reason not to increase the availability of this highly effective medication.
Of course, this is completely backward. This is just one of the many
disenfranchised groups ARM seeks to help by fully integrating OA treatment
into the wider medical community. We believe that by removing many
of these barriers, we can greatly enhance the lives of so many people who
need this treatment but simply cannot live with the daily intrusion of
clinic attendance, especially after proven stability has been reached.
The StigmaOA treatment has been scientifically researched and proven to be the most effective means of stabilizing an opiate addict and reintegrating him or her into society as a productive and functioning citizen (as is the case with so many stabilized methadone patients with whom the "public" is typically unfamiliar--again, because of the stigma). And while ARM in no way believes that OA treatment should be the only choice available to an opiate addict seeking treatment, neither do we see any reason to treat this medical success story with the shame and stigma that has become associated with it for little or no reason whatsoever except the ignorance of people making the policy choices in the area of chemical dependency treatment in general and treatment of opiate addiction in particular.
And if an opiate addict does make the choice to treat his/her
chronic and fatal (if untreated) disease with OA therapy, then that treatment
should be as patient friendly as any other legitimate medical treatment
for any other chronic, relapsing disease. Many people seem not to
know, or are unwilling to accept, the fact that the field of medicine has
identified narcotic addiction as a disease. Many of these people
would like to keep "the argument" on a moral plane rather than the health
issue that it is.
What You Can DoWe hope you will join us in calling for a change in the current policy of segregating OA therapy from other medical procedures and practices. We want the chance to also educate individual physicians to the facts about OA treatment--not the stigmatized myths that are currently in vogue. This change will benefit not only the addicts who need this therapy but also their families, friends, employers, and the surrounding community. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
If you are interested in helping ARM achieve these goals, we have two areas of activity:
(1) First, we need volunteers at the state and regional levels (our current plans call for 5-6 "regions" managed by a Regional Manager who will have to be a very committed and talented volunteer.
We are then seeking volunteers from each state, and we can use several in each state because there is so much to do. People in all these positions will have access to real support at the national level, particularly in terms of getting you the materials you need to do the job (we are currently in the process of preparing those materials, but it shouldn't be long before we are ready to take applications for specific volunteer positions).
These positions are not limited to methadone patients exclusively. We would like to involve the families and friends of patients when possible. If you as a patient have a good relationship with your family doctor, counselor, spiritual advisor, or other person, we welcome all who are in harmony with ARM's mission to become involved in this endeavor.
Please look to future editions of Methadone Today for specific "job descriptions" and how to apply. But if you already think that such a position might appeal to you, please send us some initial contact information so we know how to get in touch with you when we begin filling these slots and just in case you miss the MT edition that contains the job YOU want.
(2) Although we are going to be operating under some grant monies, they will by no means cover all the expenses we will incur. We are looking for people who are willing to pay dues or have fundraising experience or ideas. There are several levels of membership, including clinic membership, but details are being worked out. If you think you might like to help ARM in this way, please contact Methadone Today.
Remember, you do not have to give a lot of time to ARM. You may only have a few hours a month available to donate. We can still use you as long as you are reliable. Everyone needs to help a little for this to work.
ARM is staffed by a number of very experienced and dedicated people. Please feel free to write to ARM in care of Methadone Today (address and E-mail on last page), and one of the staff will at least attempt to answer any specific questions you might have about our exciting new organization!
Thank you for your interest,
Thomas Pizzutto was a thirty-eight year old methadone maintenance patient incarcerated for traffic offenses in the Nassau County, New York Jail. It is alleged that he was beaten to death by the correction officers.
The beating occurred after Mr. Pizzutto requested to be dosed. Methadone Today is attempting to ascertain, and hopes the federal officials who have taken over the investigation will ascertain, whether Mr. Pizzutto was improperly being denied his dosage or if the beating was somehow directly linked to his status as a methadone maintenance patient.
One thing which is clear
is that after the beating, the jail officials are reported to have coerced
Mr. Pizzutto into signing a false statement exonerating them on the promise
he would be dosed. - END
While on a clinic in Hollywood, FL, my husband and I were stopped by a patrol cop in the parking lot of the clinic. We had just gotten dosed and each had four take homes. We had them together in the same "lock box", which is a requirement at that clinic and I believe in the state of Florida.
The cop insisted the box be opened, and he then took one bottle, opened it and smelled it. He walked to his patrol car and put the box inside of his trunk. He came back to hassle my husband again, and I went into the clinic to see if someone could help us.
We were very lucky as the directors office had a "one way window", and a nurse and three counselors had been watching this happen. A nurse called for another officer but before that officer arrived, the cop that had our take homes was gone.
We were given replacements but had to file a complaint. I did not have a problem with that, as the nurse and counselors also filed. The police department in Hollywood did not at that time (and probably still does not) think much of the program. Of course, nothing came of the complaint, and we did not hear a thing about it ever.
The one good thing that came out of it was that that particular
cop was not seen again at the clinic. I still feel that he committed a
crime, but because of who the victims were, it was OK. Sad to say,
I don't think this will ever change. I really get mad when I think
of that day, but I felt we did the right and the only thing we could have
done. But still, this cop got away with harassing us and stealing
I gave birth just before Christmas to a beautiful baby boy. I've been a methadone patient for over 20 years, and I have two older children, both born while I was on methadone. One had mild withdrawals at birth and was successfully treated with paregoric; the other baby had no withdrawals at all.
This is the experience I had giving birth this time. While I was in labor, a nurse was getting the room ready. She said she was putting a syringe of Narcan next to the bed "in case the baby has respiratory difficulties" at birth. I was alarmed. I asked her, "why Narcan?" I thought Narcan was NOT supposed to be given to anyone on methadone or an opiate unless it's an emergency, like COMA or overdose. She said they "did this all the time" -- that babies sometimes have respiratory difficulties from the epidural or drugs given to mom during labor. I figured they knew what they were doing, but apparently they didn't. After the birth, I re-checked the TIP book, "Drug Exposed Infants", and it stated Narcan is NOT supposed to be given to a baby born to a mom on methadone, even if there is respiratory depression!
I had told the doctors and staff that I was a methadone patient knowing that they might treat me "differently" (badly), but I figured it was best for the baby if they knew. Well, "Jacob" was born gasping for air. They gave him not one, but THREE, doses of Narcan within a half hour! My poor baby was thrown into terrible withdrawals. Within an hour after I gave birth, I went to see him in the neonatal intensive care unit. The staff there told me his withdrawals were because of the methadone; I told them it's because of all that Narcan! I showed them what it said in the TIP book, which I had conveniently brought along in my suitcase. The pediatrician got visibly nervous. Jacob was transferred shortly afterward to a nearby hospital; I was told it was because they had a "better" neonatal intensive care unit.
The second hospital had Jacob on phenobarbital to control withdrawals, but he wasn't doing well. I told the pediatrician that I had given birth several years ago and that the baby did really well on paregoric. Luckily, this doctor agreed to change to paregoric, and Jacob improved dramatically.
Even though I volunteered the information that I was on methadone (a legally prescribed medication!), they tested the baby's first stool for drugs. It showed up marijuana. I was puzzled; I admitted I smoked a joint in the first month of pregnancy, BEFORE I knew I was pregnant. They said this test could tell what the mom had ingested since conception. Because of the positive for marijuana, they wouldn't release the baby until Social Services could send people to my house to check the "home environment". They found a nice, clean home, well-stocked with food, clothes and toys, presents under the tree, etc.
Needless to say, I was not happy with the way the baby and I were
treated. The final kick-in-the-butt: Social Services told me my name
is now on a register of "child abusers" in the State of Michigan!
At least my beautiful Jacob is now healthy and safe at home.
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