I was recently at a forum where participants were asked to raise our hands if we had ever struggled with a habit that was harmful to us. The majority of us raised our hands. The question helped us all to recognize we are not talking about “them” when we talk about substance use. Removing “us and them” from the equation helps us to move past the stigma of harmful habits and to focus on what is really important.
Our stories of harmful habits are often about alcohol and tobacco, but some are about drugs like opiates and stimulants. When we think about the personal side of addiction, it becomes clear: many of our stories are related to coping with pain. The pain can be physical and/or emotional and sometimes what helps the pain develops into a habit with serious costs to health.
Many doctors will tell you addiction to substances has a brain biology connection and should be treated like any other health problem. Health problems sometimes need to be treated with drugs. As a drug, methadone has many uses, including pain management at the end of life, but the methadone programs discussed in the video are for people who have become dependent on prescribed and/or illicit opioids. These programs provide a range of supports including individual counselling to assist people to take back their lives from dependence on opioids.
Methadone is a synthetic agent that works by “occupying” the brain receptor sites for opiates. This relieves the craving for opiates, which is a major factor in relapse. It also relieves symptoms associated with withdrawal from opiates, and it does not cause euphoria or intoxication itself, thus allowing a person to work and participate normally in society.
Methadone is plainly the best treatment we currently have for opiate dependence. The reason for the Northern Health methadone program videos is to build understanding about substance dependence as a health issue, and about methadone as an important treatment option for opioid dependence.
Take a minute to check out the methadone program video above and the links to additional resources below. Stay tuned to the Northern Health Matters blog this week for more information about substance use issues in the north.
- Northern Health methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) program video (extended version)
- Methadone Maintenance Treatment Services Environmental Scan in Northern BC
- Methadone Maintenance Treatment in British Columbia, 1996-2008
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
- Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: Prescription Opioids
- Canada’s prescription opioid crisis
About Lee Anne Deegan
Lee Anne and her family moved north shortly after she completed her undergraduate degree in social work. She loves the north and has worked over ten years in mental health and addictions services in several rural communities in the region. She received her graduate degree in social work from UNBC. Her experience and relationships with northern communities have been very beneficial in her regional roles with the provincial government and Northern Health. As addictions knowledge exchange leader, Lee Anne works with groups and individuals encouraging compassion and inclusion and supporting the development of evidence-informed approaches for the treatment of problematic substance use. Lee Anne enjoys camping and hiking on the plentiful trails within and surrounding Prince George. If you live in Prince George, you may have seen her biking to her office downtown.