DWI LEADS TO ABRUPT DISCONTINUATION OF METHADONE TREATMENT
An article in The Olympian (Washington State) on 01 Jan stated that a woman with a 3-year old child in the car was cited for drunk driving while on her way to her methadone clinic. The clinic "told her she had to find someplace else for treatment soon." A social worker has been trying in vain to find an alternative provider and indicates that if she's not successful soon the woman will have to "go cold turkey."
Can one imagine any other medical care provider abruptly discontinuing treatment - especially treatment for a condition known to have a significant risk of death - because s/he was cited for drunk driving? Would a diabetes clinic tell a patient on insulin s/he had to find another provider or else simply do without insulin? Or a provider of care for cardiac disease or hypertension or prenatal care or . . .? Unthinkable, and if a provider for whatever reasons were to threaten to do that it would be deemed therapeutic abandonment and subject the physician in charge to possible revocation of medical licenses as well as God knows what civil actions. How incredibly ironic that this particular medical care provider, whose raison d'etre is caring for chemical dependence, should have such policies and practices!
An additional issue raised by the article: narcotic dependence is a medical condition with the most severe consequences for the individual and the community. For the former there is the risk of getting and spreading HIV, hepatitis and other illnesses, arrest and incarceration and loss of child custody, and death from overdose. For the community, there are enormous social and also financial costs. While to date no one has been able to make a credible claim for a cure for narcotic addiction, effective treatment exists - and no form of treatment is recognized as being as effective as methadone maintenance. So . . . shouldn't some voices be raised demanding the State explain what is being done to eliminate the irrationality and inhumanity of requiring those seeking help to languish on waiting lists? The social worker quoted in this article reports that waiting times routinely are 1-1.5 months. Indeed, someone should be demanding to know what consideration is being given to increasing capacity sufficiently to allow the state to take the initiative with public service announcements urging more narcotic dependent people to seek help.