As I’ve mentioned, I receive several e-mails each day asking questions about opioid dependence. There are a number of confusing opinions, attitudes, and regulations that ultimately get in the way access to treatment. And with opioid dependence, access to treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
One area of confusion relates to the use of methadone to treat opioid dependence. Methadone is a potent, low-cost pain medication. While a month’s prescription for Oxycontin may retail for $400, $500, or much more, a prescription for a similar amount and potency of methadone costs less than twenty dollars.
Besides treating pain, methadone is used to treat addiction to opioids through highly-regulated programs. Laws allowing for these ‘methadone maintenance clinics’ were enacted in the early 1970’s, to counter the surge in heroin use that began in the late 1960’s . The clinics were located mainly in inner cities, where most of the intravenous heroin addicts were located at that time.
Over the past ten years several corporations have purchased, consolidated, and refurbished methadone clinics, moving them to suburbs and rural areas to match the dramatic increase in addiction to heroin and other opioids in those areas.