I had a love affair with opiates, and benzodiazepines were my fling on the side (both of which I was prescribed). When it came to opiates, OxyContin was initially my drug of choice. However when OxyContin was taken off the market here in Canada, Hydromorph Contin because my new favourite. I actually enjoyed it far more than OxyContin. The rush of injecting a Hydro was absolute euphoria to me. When it came to benzos, I mainly used Clonazepam.
2. How were you using it?
Initially, I took my OxyContin as prescribed (my mouth). That didn't last long, though. It progressed from chewing the pills, to crushing and snorting them, and then finally to using intravenously. As for the Benzos, they were always taken by mouth.
3. Why did you choose Methadone as opposed to Suboxone?
This probably isn't going to be the answer you were looking for, but at the time, it technically wasn't much of a choice. Well, I suppose you could say I chos' Methadone by default. When I was ready to enter treatment, the only form of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) that was covered by my insurance was Methadone. Suboxone was available to me, however, for those without insurance that covered it, treatment cost upwards of $20 per day. I simply could not afford Suboxone treatment At those prices. So Methadone it was. Prices and coverage have since changed, but by the time it did I was well into my Methadone treatment, finding success and reaching a stable point. I didn't see a point in screwing with that.
4. What exactly is Methadone, and how do you take it?
Methadone, or Methadone Hydrochloride, is a synthetic opioid agonist similar to morphine, but much longer lasting. When used for Maintenance Treatment, Methadone is given as a liquid, and is generally diluted with Tang or Juice. Each morning I personally take 13ml of liquid methadone, mixed with about 50ml of Orange flavoured Tang.
5. Did you have any hesitations about starting MMT? If so, what, and what swayed you?
I had very little hesitation in regards to starting Methadone. I was completely desperate for anything that could help me get myself straightening out and my life back in order. My attempts at abstinence-based rehab and going cold turkey consistently failed, and my life had completely fallen apart. I was a homeless intravenous drug user, and I hadn't even turned 25 years old yet. I knew that if I didn't change, I could very well be dead in the near future. After speaking with a few Methadone patients I met in the shelter I stayed in, and visiting with the Methadone prescribing Physician, I was more excited than I was hesitant about the thought of starting treatment with Methadone. I did have some concerns regarding the stigma that still surrounds it, but it was easily dismissed - my life and wellbeing mattered to me far more than the opinions of others.
Ending up homeless, and being away from my dog were huge motivating factors for me to start treatment. At that point, I had literally lost all of my belongings; from furniture and electronics, to wedding rings and bands. Material loses aside, I had burned every bridge with friends and family, aside from my husband, who was using with me. Finding yourself staying in a shelter is a sobering experience, pun intended. It was a shock, and to experience it all while struggling with a serious intravenous drug problem made things 10 times harder. It was becoming very clear to me at that point where my life was heading (or not heading) if I were to continue along that path. I knew full well I would end up dead, or simply remain on the streets until I OD'd. I didn't want to live that way. I wanted my home and family back, desperately. The thought of never truly getting my dog back absolutely tore me up inside; she is one of the most beautiful beings I have ever encountered on this earth. The weight of those loses, combined with the encouragement of a fellow user, finally pushed me to try Methadone maintenance treatment. I am beyond glad I did!
7. What is clinic life like for you?
At this point in my treatment, Clinic life is fairly routine. Instead of attending the main Methadone Clinic downtown, I go to a smaller Clinic a little ways away. I personally find it to be a much calmer and supportive environment at my Clinic, as opposed to the busy downtown clinic. which I I am required to report to the clinic every two weeks on my "Doctor day," which happens to be Monday. There is no specific time I am required to show up; it is run walk-in clinic style. On those biweekly visits, I am required to sample for urine drug testing, which is done in the clinic. In the washroom, there are two separate stalls that are monitored for sample tampering via cameras that are fed to the nurses desk just outside the washrooms. I know some of you are bound to find that seriously creepy, but I find it a hell of a lot less creepy than having a person hover around me while I'm trying to go pee.
After sampling, I turn it over to the Nurse for drug testing. On alternating biweekly visits, I also see the Doctor (once monthly). During those visits we discuss how I've been doing/feeling, any cravings or drug use, and go over any concerns or questions. The Doctor prints me off a new prescription and then I'm good to go for another month! I then take that prescription to my local methadone dispensing pharmacy, and get my daily drinks.
8. Why do you still dose daily at the pharmacy?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked. Many people, including methadone patients, are surprised to hear that after almost 4 years of treatment that I still attend the pharmacy every single day for supervised dosing. The next question that follows is "So you're still using opiates (or amphetamines) then?" The answer to that is a big NO. The reason I dose daily isn't because I am not allowed carry-home (or take-home) doses, it's because I have purposely turned them down. I feel that going to the pharmacy to dose daily is a much better option for me - it gets me out of the house each morning, some exercise, keeps me in a good routine, and also keeps me from slipping up. I have discussed this particular question at length in a previous blog post, which you can read here.
9. How did your family and friends react to your Methadone treatment?
My family's reaction to my Methadone treatment was been extremely positive. They have all been incredibly supportive of it since the beginning, and continue to be to this day. Not only have they been supportive of my treatment, but they have also been supportive of my blogging and openness about my struggles. Their support has meant so much to me over these past few years.
Now, as for friends... To be honest, I'm not exactly in touch with the majority of my friends that I was close with prior to and during the start of my drug use. It isn't something I'm avoiding, but if I'm being honest, it's not something I'm actively seeking out either. As for new friends I've met since starting treatment - the people that I've been open with about my history have generally been supportive and kind. I unfortunately have gotten the odd person that becomes stand off-ish, or starts to slowly distance themselves after learning my past, though.
My life history and list of medications are not something that I choose to share with everyone I meet (although it's not exactly a secret either). Stigma towards methadone patients is still very much alive, so I do tend to tread carefully.
10. Do you get high from your dose of Methadone?
Absolutely not. It simply makes me feel normal.
11. How long have you been on Methadone for?
This summer will be the beginning of my 4th year on Methadone maintenance treatment.
12. How long has it been since you've been stable and not using?
About 3 and a half years now! I do not keep a precise day count or sobriety date. I never have, nor do I have any desire to.
13. Do you have plans to stop Methadone at any point in the future?
Ideally, yes. Of course I would like to be completely off of Methadone one day, but I am in absolutely no rush to do so. I do have plans to start slowly weaning down in the future, but if I get to a point where I feel as though I'm getting to a bad place or struggle with cravings/using, I have no problem stopping the taper and taking some time to readjust before continuing to decrease my dose. I am fully aware that tapering from my current dose is going to take over a year; and that's if things go perfectly. For some, the idea of that probably seems daunting; and I can't deny that at times it is. It's a hell of a lot less daunting than what my life used to be like, though.
14. What led you to drugs in the first place?
There technically isn't one specific thing that led me to drugs, but a combination of many different things. I had used dabbled very minimally with drugs (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine) in my teens on the odd occasion, but it wasn't until my early 20's that my relationship with drugs became problematic. At that time, I had some undealt with traumas from the years prior, and the internal pain had been accumulating unchecked for some time. When I injured my knee, my family physician prescribed me OxyContin, which very effectively relieved both my physical and mental/internal pain. Once I began to notice just how much those pills helped me to escape my pain and traumas, my relationship with drugs changed, and I very quickly slid out of control.