Changes Are Afoot
When I began hearing about the changes to the Methadone formulation in B.C. as well as the problems being raised by patients, my reaction was mixed. My first thoughts were those of empathy, discontent and relief. I truly felt for those patients in B.C. who were not adjusting well to the switch, and experiencing painful withdrawals. I was very unimpressed with the Province for making changes that are putting peoples hard earned recovery and sobriety at risk. However if I'm being honest, I was also completely and utterly relieved that there was no mention of Ontario in this switcharoo.
Just a few short months later while at the pharmacy for our daily dose of Methadone, Mr. L mentions he overheard discussion about something called 'Methadose' and changes to Methadone, and asked me if I had heard anything of it. As soon as the word 'Metha-DOSE' left his lips, my heart sunk. Fuck. I shook it off, and hoped to hell what he had just overheard did not pertain to us. I was just itching to hop on my bike and get myself home so I could dig into the treasure trove of information that is Google - searching for anything and everything remotely related to Ontario and Methadose.
The search results revealed exactly what I didn't want to see. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care had indeed made the decision to change from the current formulation of Methadone to Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals 'Methadose' as of September 1st, 2014.
I have been on Methadone for 3 years now. It has allowed me to reclaim my life and my freedom from the hell that is addiction. I lost everything I had to my addiction, exhausted all options and help from friends and family, and had ended up on the streets. was a total wreck; a homeless IV drug addict at age 24. Not where I had planned on being, ever. The only thing I had left was Mr. L. But then I found Methadone Maintenance Treatment, and made the decision to give it a go. I had absolutely nothing left to lose. I had attempted and failed every time I tried weaning myself down, going cold turkey, or going to rehab. It never worked. My addiction had become far too powerful. I could no longer function like a normal human being.
Opiates had become as vital to my being as the air I breathe, and it completely consumed me.
The thought of my hard earned recovery and sobriety being put at risk is not something I take lightly. With approximately 1 in 4 patients experiencing problems with the transition in B.C., its not at all comforting to know that there could be as much as a 25% chance that all of my hard work and efforts could go right out the window based on complaints and reports of once-stable patients in B.C. (although no official studies or investigation has been completed as of yet). Of course I know that those odds aren't set in stone, and I know that there is a very good chance that I will experience absolutely zero issues during my transition. However the simple fact that there is a risk here at all is what irks me. The whole point of this treatment is to keep me stable and sober.
So why would the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) switch things up in a treatment program that depends so much on patient stability? Money.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care doesn't see the stability issue, as the deep discount in price seems to be blinding them - even with the glaring issues occurring in B.C. Yet the MOHLTC touts that this whole switch is for an oddly similar reason; consistency. In order to provide consistency, individual pharmacies will no longer be compounding the Methadone; it now comes premixed. However every pharmacy staff member I have spoken to has rebutted this, saying that the regulations on the compounding of Methadone were so strict, that inconsistencies in mixtures were a non issue. Changing Methadone formulations is messing with the very fragile stability that patients work so hard to achieve and maintain.
Regardless of the reasons or opposition, the change has now officially taken place, with yesterday being the first day my pharmacy dispensed the new formulation.
Downing The First Dose
For those unfamiliar with how Methadone is dispensed, below is a diagram of a typical Methadone or Methadose electronic bottle top dispenser commonly used by pharmacies to accurately measure liquid doses of medication.
As for the taste... Well, compared to the Methadone, it isn't quite as bitter. My pharmacy is dispensing the sugar-free flavourless version of Methadose, rather than the Cherry flavour (Thank GOD). Methadone had an extremely potent taste; even when mixed with Tang, it was the type of thing you want to ingest in the style of a shot, as its taste is fairly overwhelming. Hell, it could be quite entertaining at times in the morning watching patients faces pucker up after downing their dose. So I was fairly surprised when I took my first mouthful, only to be met with very little in the taste department. It has only a very mildly bitter taste. You can certainly tell something is mixed in with the Tang, but the potency of taste is significantly less than that of the Methadone.
To the eye it also appears to be a considerably smaller dose due to the higher level of concentration. Previously, a dose of 125mg of Methadone would be presented to the patient in a graduated cylinder, with the liquid hitting the top measurement line at 25ml. Now, when the Methadose is presented to the patient in a graduated cylinder, the liquid only hits the 12.5ml measurement line on the cylinder; visually 50% less. In only two visits to the pharmacy totalling all of maybe 15minutes, I have seen many different patients immediately notice this difference in volume and cry foul; rightfully concerned that they were not being presented with their usual full dose. The basic explanation given by pharmacy staff is generally less than satisfying, leaving some patients fairly confused.
I have to criticize the Province on their complete lack of patient education throughout this transition. Unless you figure it out for yourself through Google, the only information given to us was a red piece of paper taped to the wall of the pharmacy which contained all of two sentences stating that they were switching to Methadone on September 1st, but that we would still be receiving the same strength of medication. Thats about it. Even when inquiring to pharmacy staff, that answers given were basic at best. Many patients are not fully informed about the changes to their treatment, and get quite confused and hesitant when they are presented with a smaller volume of a very different looking liquid. I can't speak for any other patients, but I want to be fully informed about and involved in my treatment at all times. My life and ability to function currently depends on this treatment. If any changes are being made to it, I want every last little detail - and I mean every. I am stable. I have absolutely no desire to re-experience the hell that is withdrawal, or an intravenous drug addiction and homelessness - because thats exactly where it will end up. I know that all too well. I consider myself extremely lucky to have survived it the first time around, and I have absolutely no desire to take my chances at a second turn. I'll pass. But, thanks to the MOHLTC, I really have no choice in the matter.
My criticisms and ranting about the process aside, I feel it is honestly too early for me to start making any big judgements or comments, as I have only had two doses, and technically the Methadone only just barely making its way out of my system by this point. However, as of the publishing of this post, I am feeling just fine. I have not experienced any symptoms of withdrawal as of yet, nor have I experienced any cravings to use.
I hesitated to include this last observation, as I feel like no matter what words I use, it will be twisted and interpreted as saying Methadone patients experience a 'high'. But I feel that in order to be as unbiased and honest as possible, it's only fair to include all of my observations. In the two days I have been taking it, I have noticed that the Methadose does seem to come on faster and stronger than Methadone. This is not to say I get high. That is not the case, never has been. MMT does not get patients high when they are on the proper dose, as I am. I simply mean to say I feel 'normal' and ready to start my day in a much smaller period of time than it seemed to take with Methadone.
Regardless of all the changes I'm staying positive. As of 12 hours into dose #2, so far so good...
Day 15 Update: Around day 5/6 I began noticing a bit of a difference in the way I felt. My usual dose no longer seems to be lasting me quite the same way as it did prior to the switch. I am certainly not in full blown withdrawals, but I am far from feeling tops.
A big thank you to everyone who has showed concern and support for me during this transition. It means a lot <3
Update: 8 months after the switch and I am feeling normal again. However, I did end up requiring a 5mg increase in my dose, as the new formulation did not last me as long as the previous. After the 5mg increase, I am once again feeling stable and normal.