Responding to the ongoing trend of methadone deaths, which hasn’t abated 4 years after a report lobby groups say is a whitewash, SAMHSA is proposing to institute some weak remedies that interest groups believe are unlikely to turn the tide.

They’re dying in hoards the Methadone ‘patients.’ and equally those they would deal to, say HARMD, a pressure group of bereaved and ex patients. On the street the word that has become many Moms worst nightmares – methadone – is masquerading as something new and going by fun names like fizzies, they say.

There have been several cases of patients sharing ‘take home’ doses with their babies to ‘settle them down’ and killing them, as patients clearly do not understand risks and still think drugs are the answer to every problem.

The latest victim was a 22 month old boy in the U.K. whose Mother Gemma Fennelly had been dosing him regularly, so he’d be easy to manage. He also had traces of cocaine in him, which well demonstrates how ‘clean’ most methadone households are.

To those ‘in the know’ methadone is just mass produced cyanide, which may takes the stress off junkies to spend big dollars but often ramps up their addictions, HARMD assert. The drug, earlier seen as a miracle fix for the heroin problem of the ‘me’ generation is behind an unprecedented epidemic of ‘death by prescription’.

‘The experiment failed’ some within the medical ranks believe with Prof. McKegany of Scotland at the fore. Methadone’s bad rap today comes in part from the recent discovery it is the second biggest killer drug in the U.S.A. after cocaine. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Research say that maternal use is a significant cause of cot death.

One difference between the methadone and the drug heroin that it is supposed to replace (though it’s fliply given to addicts of any drug nowadays) is that close to 300 methadone victims monthly, and their highly misled hopeful families just as much, aren’t risk aware when introduced to the drug,’ say HARMD (Helping America Reduce Methadone Deaths).

The Bush Administration, which is as much in the grip of methadone manufacturers as it once was of tobacco purveyors ordered their obligatory report a few years back now which surprise, surprise, completely obfuscated.

It diverted from the real issues including addiction clinics. It even failed to scrutinise the drugs safety profile, several critics including experts have asserted.

The man hired to research and write the report based on the methadone crisis conference, as well as background paper for conference participants, was Stewart B. Leavitt, an addiction specialist whose work is funded by the makers of methadone.

The report wrongfully blamed the increased use of methadone for pain indications and overdoses in that patient group for causing the epidemic, as statistics were selectively chosen to support this view, say HARMD.

A view which would naturally expose health providers to lower litigation risk overall, by shielding oft long operational (multi killer) clinics from closer scrutiny.

Thankfully 2 courageous award winning journalists Finn and Tuckweiler cut an escape route path through the supple-jack forest of dangerous ‘safety’ mythology, which in 40 years has grown up all around methadone.

They exposed the wholesale state sanctioned slaughter of those who are often societies least valued members – addicts and people disabled by painful ailments.

And highlighted the questionable reliability of the authoritative SAHMSA report into methadone deaths given heavy handed involvement of a pro methadone lobbyist. The newspaper series gave impetus to the methadone protest movement.

The main themes that were bought in to sharp focus by the journos investigation; rampant overdosing of chronic pain patients by a medical fraternity not understanding the narrow margin of error for doses in early days, and deaths among naive users when clinic and pain treatment patients on sold their doses to make a quick buck.

SAMHSA’s report blaming pain relief scripts for the carnage must now be considered to have been a giant litany of errors. It has had no impact on the deaths and matters may actually be getting worse on a National scale.

As the latest statistics released to HARMD re trends in some member states indicates. Analyses of the statistics reveal that addiction patients and those they deal to are highly prominent in the deaths.

‘Many of our members lost treated addicts taking the drug as prescribed for the obvious reason of it’s 1 star safety – the patients did nothing wrong at all’.

Surely the last thing Officials could have anticipated was that lobby groups like HARMD might form to query and protest the whitewash report – given that addicts like drugs and generally will say yes…. all the way to the funeral parlour.

But exposes such as Finn and Tuckweillers gave impetus to the relatives who weren’t willing to shamefacedly write off ‘junkies’ deaths or ‘experimenters’ deaths as ‘just one of those things’ and determined to dig deeper.

Then along came Raymond Woosley from the University of Arizona’s Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics, to chastise Government for their immoral and somewhat paternalistic failure to inform about methadones cardiac risk (long well acknowledged in Germany, which changed the formula to lower it).

The World Health Organisation recently began looking out for methadone deaths due to cardiac complications and found a surprisingly high frequency, while it was lately identified that 6% have a gene that means cardiac problems will be likely if methadone is tried.

‘The drug was a half-century old, but no one had ever checked to see if it affects the heart,’ Woosley said. Reports of methadone users dying suddenly emerged soon after it began being widely used for addiction treatment (late 1980’s).

But they were drug addicts, and everyone blamed the deaths on simple overdoses. Under Woosley’s pressure the FDA finally buckled and made a box warning re cardiac risk obligatory in recent weeks.

Their unconscionable justification for not doing it earlier was that if patients found out about their high risk of blackout and sudden death from cardiac disturbances they might stay on heroin, which could be deadly too (though clearly not as deadly as methadone).

‘It’s not surprising this murkiness around risk perception, given that clinics and pain Drs have gotten complacent or greedy, and now hand this most toxic of all narcotic drugs out like candy’ says Melissa Zuppardi of HARMD’.

‘Few people realise how widespread methadone use was  actually rushed in due to HIV fear not OD risks, and basic safety profile checks were never done to modern standards – that’s just happening now and methadone is scoring an F minus’.

Everyone has heard of heroin and tobacco’s risks, but there has until lately been only a whispering about methadone, and some support groups have uneducated members disseminating a lot of  misinformation to people.

‘They tend to minimise the dangers and only accentuate the positives as regards a therapy that is clearly only suitable and desirable for a minority of those enquiring’.

‘A major problem for patients seeking quality care is that there are big kickbacks for Drs who prescribe from the methadone marketers who work on commission, and it is the cheapest option for insurance companies – so we now see people who should really be on other treatments having it shoved down their gullet’.

Prescribing guidelines do indicate that for pain methadone is only the ‘third line of defense’ with NSAIDs and other more expensive higher grade safer opiates being preferential.

Yet no-one much has heeded this fact lately, as when oxycontin which is pharmacologically safer got slated Drs paniced and switched to the worst possible replacement.

Another issue to emerge is that many people who have weaned themselves off it who were prescribed it for addiction treatment are saying their addiction was never to drugs that are half as heavy duty as methadone. They say Drs were too trigger happy and threw them from the frying pan into the fat.

‘The consensus among peeved ex patients who have joined HARMD is that clinics are over prescribing to people for whom treatment is not indicated, people with tiny pan pill habits rather than raging heroin addicts. Perhaps due to poor clinical judgments or the profit motive.’

‘These patients who were not hardcore addicts have tried to be heard – they try to make submissions about the clinics inappropriate prescribing and lack of care for their best interests. I mean this is a high risk drug of last resort, yet Drs treat it how they used to treat antibiotics – ‘you want it – OK then’.

Sadly these people with negatives to report find that the health authorities are so biased toward supporting the cause of methadone treatment in general, that their concerns as patient advocates aren’t addressed.

Really these patient advocates should be the ones most heeded. They’re speaking from hard won experience (given methadone is the hardest drug to come off) as well as from a place of sobre clear minded success.

This month in correspondence from SAMHSA to a founder of  HARMD, SAMHSA revealed
that within the next six months, it will convene a group of experts to update its National Assessment of Methadone-Associated Mortality Report published in 2003.

The updated Leavitt report will present the field with the current scope and scale of this growing problem, SAMHSA wrote. 

It was indicated that a strong peer education program may be attempted. ‘That won’t come a moment too soon – but they need to recognise the limitations of peer education, in the context of addiction’ say HARMDs addiction counsellors. 

As the users who are most politically active will be biased themselves toward recommending greater use of the drug on the whole, given Pharm Co’s have tame
patients doing a lot of their PR work’.

It’s not an update of the report that is needed because the report is fundamentally flawed, so of course it’s had no effect. We really need a full review of the situation here in the States, by independent experts without any prejudice caused by Leavitts ramblings and influence.

And then to amend seperate State’s Medicine Acts and Pain Treatment Acts if they have them, in order to stop illicit diversion, the sharing of meds with babies and the general trend to over prescribe methadone in all patient populations.

Physicians and the patients need to be encouraged by policy makers to select alternatives, because the supply of methadone is the aspect directly related to the extent of premature deaths that will occur. Similar death rates among the young to the wars toll from a prescribed drug is simply not acceptable.

To find out more about methadone or to access support after a tragedy;                      http://www.harmd.org

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