"METHADONE TREATMENT" AND FATALITIES: THE NEED TO BE SPECIFIC
In the Bangor (Maine) Daily News of 18 May an article was headlined, "Methaodne treatment exacts too high a cost." No one could disagree with the statement that “even one methadone-related death is one too many.” It should be noted, however, that the tragedy in the particular case which prompted this story was most likely due to the inadequate availability of methadone treatment for opiate dependence, and not to its limitations. Reportedly the deceased woman had been desperately motivated to give up her addiction, which before she reached the age of 20 had progressed to intravenous use of heroin. “She tried to quit,” the story said, but even with the encouragement of her family her attempts failed. We are further told, “At one point she was on the waiting list at a methadone maintenance program, but she died before she could be enrolled.” The reporter's reasonable conclusion: the deceased “was probably trying to control her cravings by self-medicating.”
Clearly, nothing can possibly make up for this terrible loss of life or ease the grief that it has caused. But to save the lives of others it seems vital to ensure that “waiting lists” – for methadone as well as for any and all other forms of care for addiciton - be eliminated, and that those who want and need help in overcoming their dependence can get it promptly.