Thursday, July 02, 2009


A study that is 7 years old but still of vital importance describes the results of a survey of patient beliefs about methadone maintenance – which, on average, the 315 respondents had been receiving for seven years in a public clinic in NYC. Among the findings:

. although 79% agreed that “methadone has helped me change my life in a good way,”
the negative beliefs that were expressed were distressing.
. 47% believed methadone “is bad for your health (additional 32% “not sure”)
. 39% believed higher doses “are less healthy than lower doses” (30% unsure)
. 71% (!) believed “methadone gets into your bones” (19% unsure)
. 80% believed “people should try to get off methadone” (11% unsure)

There is no reason to believe that in the intervening years since this study was done much has changed (certainly the public’s perception does not seem to have become more favorable, so there’s presumably no cause for optimism regarding a change among recipients of care). The responses can be interpreted in only one way: the clinic staff have been woefully ineffective at educating their patients about the medication that is fundamental to the care provided. Even more distressing is the possibility that many patients may be mirroring the attitudes and beliefs of staff members.

It is difficult to imagine that treatment will be optimally effective when patients believe the medication they receive is injurious to their health and should be given in doses that may be inadequate. Patients who believe one should aim to discontinue treatment will be likely to do so - notwithstanding the high rate of recidivism and all the concomitant risks (including, very specifically, the risk of death).

Surely patient knowledge about their treatment is a most important parameter of quality care. Is anyone aware of programs that focus on this treatment imperative? Do the accreditation bodies assess the process and outcome of this aspect of care?

Comments welcomed.
Citation: Stancliff S, Myers JE, Steiner S and Drucker. Beliefs about methadone in an inner city methadone clinic. 2002. Bull NY Acad Med. 79(4):571-578.


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bob

This is so sad. My clinic has me come in and teach pt. orientation classes to dispell exactly these types of myths. We do a survey before and after the class to see if their beliefs have been changed by the education recieved. If only more clinics were so open minded.

Kerry Wolf

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous De-addiction said...

Interesting and good to know about Methadone.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Mystery said...

I found your blog by accident and have enjoyed reading it. You should check out my new blog for information from a totally different and new perspective. I think as the blog progresses, you will find it very informative. A person has gone undercover as a methadone patient and plans to detail all of her experiences.

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous detox programs said...

thanks for dispelling the myths about methadone. more people should know about this info.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Garrett McGovern said...

The staff (particularly doctors) of many addiction treatment centres contribute to this myth. Despite the overwhelming evidence that methadone maintenance improves mental, physical and social health there are those providing treatment that believe detoxification is the only outcome of benefit. The recent furore around methadone and abnormalities with heart rhythm, I believe, has given the anti-methadone lobby another reason to malign this life saving drug. Patients deserve to be given reliable facts about their treatment, from the outset, and dispel the myths around methadone. Information sheets, FAQ etc can be very useful.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Interventions said...

I've also heard people say the same thing about methadone. I think things on TV and movies also perpetuate this myth, it's a shame...

At 9:35 AM, Blogger paula said...


i've tried to find this article (the full text) in so many databases but without any success. could you please send it to me? i would be very grateful. ( thanks!

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Methadone has worked great for me (In the US), however it's a "ball an chain" because of literally YEARS in "treatment" before getting the "privilege" of only visiting the clinic once per week. It's expensive $100/week with "proof of income" required.

MMT is great, the regulations however have made me wish that I just toughed cold turkey withdrawal out -- of a severe and long term oxycontin addiction.

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting information


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