“Temperature’s rising, fever is high, can’t see no future, can’t see no sky. My feet are so heavy, so is my head. I wish I was a baby. I wish I was dead.
Cold turkey has got me on the run. Body is aching, goose-pimple bone. Can’t see nobody. Leave me alone. My eyes are wide open, I can’t get to sleep.
One thing I’m sure of, I’m in at the deep freeze.
Cold Turkey has got me on the run. 36 hours rolling in pain, praying to someone, free me again. Oh, I’ll be a good boy, so please make me well. I’ll promise you anything, get me out of this hell! Cold turkey has got me, oh, oh, oh, Cold turkey has got me on the run.”
~Cold Turkey, John Lennon/Yoko Ono (October 20, 1969)
Methadone (meth’e don’)-n.[< it’s chemical name] a synthetic drug, less habit-forming
than morphine, used in treating morphine addicts.
~ ~ Webster’s New World Compact School and Office Dictionary, 1982 [revised edition]
Balderdash Addressed Before We Move On
In this article, I will examine the still most popular legal synthetic substitute for heroin and for pain relief, methadone. I will take a brief but somewhat comprehensive look into various uses for methadone since its invention in Germany in 1939. I find it imperative, before getting on with this article, to point out that the above definition of methadone as “less habit-forming than morphine” is absolute bullocks. While there are exceptions to every rule, I myself have met very few people, myself included, who felt methadone was kinder or gentler for their body’s system, has less toxic “side” effects, or overall preferred being on methadone than any alternative opiate- other than it gets addicts out of the clutches of prohibitionist moralists and Law Enforcement Officers who rely on prohibition to put bread on their tables.
Ask any methadone patient which drug is easier to kick – Heroin or Methadone – and they will tell you, quite rightly, that Methadone is the more hellish “drug” of the two.
While Methadone has little discernible high, and affects the body for much longer (keeping withdrawals at bay for longer than heroin), once a person is feeling the onset of methadone withdrawals, the difference is clear. Detoxing from Methadone takes much more time, a month or more at minimum, as compared to the week or two maximum for Heroin.
Patients in Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) must take their medication every single day, or they get sick. Clearly, methadone is habit-forming, although admittedly in every case, heroin habits are already formed, (or methadone prescribed patients suffer debilitating, chronic pain, for which methadone is extremely beneficial in treating) or a person cannot (or will not) be placed into MMT. So, “less habit-forming” is sheer, unadulterated semantics in the above definition, and blatantly untrue. Still, this is the usual slant by those who push methadone as state-sanctioned alternative to buying and using street opiates (usually grown, produced and trafficked into the US by US government subsidized, CIA allied, murderous drug cartels in a variety of usually war-torn regions of the world).
In these days of Prohibition II, there are numerous reports (such as that out of Canada this
past March, 2012), studies and actual programs in a variety of countries showing that giving opiate addicts heroin is by far and away more effective, not to mention more healthy for the addict, than any MMT programs will ever be. So to iterate, in countries such as the US, where Prohibitionist dogma still holds sway with politicians and those who make their money off the continued criminalization of certain molecules and those who use them, MMT continues to be one of the only ways for addicts to continue getting at least a form of opiate intake without risking Law Enforcement involvement, legal troubles, and are often able break themselves of the cycle of trying to maintain a street drug habit made intentionally more expensive by Prohibition tariffs.
The Stupidity of Prohibitionists Shines Forth
Way back in July, 1998, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced he was implementing a plan to force approximately 10,000 methadone patients in NYC to eventually detox from their methadone habits, then close the clinics, asserting that addicts were simply exchanging one unhealthy addiction for another.
“In August, [1999-author] the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation began converting its five methadone-maintenance programs (serving 2,100 addicts and representing 6% of all methadone slots in the city) into methadone-to-abstinence programs buttressed by ‘enhanced’ programs,”reported CannabisNews.com. “Patients like ‘McCoy,’ 32, a recovering heroin addict, continued to receive methadone but, it was hoped, group programs and vocational counseling would help him and others like him to eventually move off methadone completely. That experiment seems to have failed — in five months, only 21 addicts managed to come off methadone and five of those went back to heroin.”
Thankfully, Giuliani decided to backpedal, and to do away with his asinine plan, giving the now even more addicted methadone patience a reprieve. Will elaborate further on the “more addicted” later in this piece.
In 1939 two scientists working for I.G. Farben, Otto Eisleb, and O. Schaumann, at Hoechst-Am-Main, Germany, discovered an opioid analgesic which after numbering compound 8909, they named Dolantin (Pethidine). Hopes that it would be a new, non-addictive pain reliever, to take the place of Morphine, just like Diamorphine (heroin), before it, came to naught. However, because it was an extremely effective analgesic, the Germans used the drug extensively throughout War World II.
From 1937 through the Spring and Summer of 1938, two other scientists working for I.G. Farben, Max Bockmuhl, and Gustav Ehrart, were working with similar compounds to Dolantin. Bockmuhl and Ehrart were searching for drugs with certain characteristics, such as “water soluble hypnotics (sleep inducing) substances, effective drugs to slow the gastrointestinal tract to make surgery easier, effective analgesics that were structurally dissimilar to Morphine-in the hopes that they would be non-addictive, and escape the strict controls on opiates.”
On September 11, 1941, Bockmuhl and Ehrhart filed a patent application for, and were formally credited with, the discovery of Hoechst 10820 (Polamidon), which eventually became known as Methadone.
In the Autumn of 1942, I.G. Farben handed over the drug, codenamed “Amidon”, to the German military for further testing.
The Nazis did not make any attempt to mass produce the drug, unlike Pethidine, which by 1944 was being produced at an annual rate of 1600 kg. One reason for this was given by Dr. K K Chen, an early American researcher, after the war. He said that a former employee of the I. G. Farben factory had written him, saying that the Germans had discontinued
Polamidon use due to its side effects. Chen decided that the Nazis had been giving their test subject doses that were too high, causing nausea, overdose, etc.
After the war ended, the Allies divided up the spoils. I. G. Farben was in an US-occupied zone so all its “intellectual capital” (patent, trade names, and the like) came under US management. Along with the formula for Zyklon B, a nerve gas that the Nazis used in some of their extermination programs, Methadone was now an American possession.
One very common misconception is that Dolophine, one of the very first trade names given to the drug, was derived from “Adolph”, in honor of the dictator himself by the Nazis, and that in Germany it was called “Adolophine.” The fact of the matter seems to be this name was not given the drug until after the war, by the Eli-Lilly pharmaceutical company in America, which was given control of the drug.
If there was any honoring of Hitler going on, it was by the Americans who invented this urban legend. Dolophine most likely derives from the French words “dolor” (pain), and “fin” (end). This misconception continues to this day, with such celebrities who have zero idea what they are talking about, such as Scientologist Tom Cruise, who berated Brooke Shields in 2004 for her user of Paxil to help treat her post-mortem depression, calling psychiatry “nazi science,” then spewing his line about methadone and Hitler.
Eli-Lilly, along with other companies in the US and Great Britain, began clinical trials of Dolophine, marketing the drug as a pain killer and cough suppressant. In 1947, Isabel et al, published their findings after experimenting on both animals and humans. After giving doses of up to 200mg., four times a day, they found that there was rapid tolerance, and euphoria. They also discovered there were a bevy of adverse side effects, such as, “signs of toxicity . . . inflammation of the skin . . . deep narcosis and . . . a general clinical appearance of illness.” Once again, just like the Nazis, the scientists were giving doses that were far too high.(It turns out there many states will take a patient up to levels of at least 400 milligrams of methadone a day, and that this is not even all that rare. For me, this would be way too high a dose, but some people seem to function just fine and even thrive at this highly elevated levels.)
Morphine addicts responded well to Dolophine, but authorities decided that it was potentially highly addictive. As reports of Dolophine addicts started coming in, the drug was taken off the market, only to resurface in the 1960s, now known as Methadone.
Promoted by Drs. Marie Nyswynder, and Vincent Dole in the mid-1960s as the most promising method of treating heroin addiction, MMT began to receive more attention from the medical community, and gradually limited tests were begun to gauge MMT’s efficacy in treating hardcore heroin addicts. Reading through the National Institute of Health’s Consensus Development Statement, titled “Effective Medical Treatment Of Opiate Addiction”, not much, it seems, has changed. US scientists and doctors still have a lack of compassion for their “test subjects” that echoes the Nazi doctors. In the Diagnosis of Opioid Addiction section, the report states that if an addict has failed after all tests to convince the doctor he/she is really a heroin addict, the doctor can obtain further evidence by administering a “Naloxone (Narcan) challenge test to induce withdrawal symptoms.” This instantly induces withdrawals, and is what paramedics give overdose victims when trying to resuscitate them dead on the sidewalk. I’ve seen it given to a friend, and he was definitely not happy when jerking awake, sick as a dog. It is sadistic torture giving Naloxone to someone simply, to prove that they are an addict.
There have also been allegations of pharmaceutical companies using mentally ill patients in drug experiments, as reported in the New York Post(January 19, 1998). Alexander Cockburn made a comparison between Methadone and Prozac in the now defunct New York Press (January 27-February 2, 1998), where he likened Methadone patients to “compliant slaves.” He contended that Methadone is one long running experiment at the sake of the addict, and their freedoms.
If there is one thing that I am not, it’s a compliant slave. But I was someone who was always at risk of going out and banging a bag or three of heroin (maybe, somewhere deep inside even still am, but I don’t buy that “I’ve got a disease” 12-step rap, no offense to 12-steppers. Whatever it takes).
Every time I would quit, eventually the urge to score would be overwhelming and irresistible. I have seen reports, heard anecdotal evidence, and personally experienced the incessant relapsing, the days of sickness, pain, and cold, utter hell of having been clean and doing well, to only on a whim go out and throw it all away. Again and again I had seen it and done it. I know that it can be impossible for some people to stop and objectively look at what they are doing, to have that be enough to arrest their habit. Like the idea or not, Methadone can and has saved a lot of lives.
Of course, one has to already have the “high motivation for change” that has been recently reported to be associated with successful MMT. Otherwise the patient can and often does continue to use anything and everything else, including dope, and I see it all the time. Some may take this to mean that after all is said and done, it’s a person’s will power keeping them in line, so why should they need the Methadone, except as a crutch?
Take a look at TV some time, at all the ads being run for new allergy pills, new diet pills,
new hair-grow pills, new all kinds of pills. Most, if not all come with long drawn out warnings of adverse side effects, such as head aches, nausea, stomach cramping, and fetal deformity in unborn children. Yet these are all for medications that are most certainly not needed by anyone, for any reason, except to make life a little easier, if one can believe that from the warnings of purported side-effects in these ads.
Methadone is pushed the same way: “Why suffer kicking dope and getting arrested when you can have our drug, cheap, supplied you, that will allow you a ‘normal’ life? Never mind the awful kicking you may someday face, but why quit? Stay on it for life if need be, you are an addict!” This is the message.
It should be obvious that if Methadone does what it is advertised, then of course folks should actively support its dissemination. But to me, a person currently dealing with the realization that methadone only put off the hell of kicking, with a much harder kick awaiting me when the decision to end its use was recently reached, it isn’t obvious. Who is making the money from the production and sales of Methadone? Why is Methadone more preferable than simple Heroin maintenance? (Other than for the blatant advantage of no longer taking the drug, made illegal by the same folks who made MMT legal, that initiated the addiction in the first place.)
There is also the fact that people who do drugs, illegal drugs, are by definition, law-breakers. Law-breakers are in turn potential subversives, as they are not inclined to toe the official line. What better way to get control of a whole block of possible terrorists, rabble-rousers and plain-old troublemakers than to arrange to supply their highly-addictive drugs to them directly, through established clinics where they must come to get their “fix”, where it is easy to keep records of all kinds, medical, psychological, and otherwise on them all? Eli-Lilly is renowned for concentrating on the psycho-active drug market, like Prozac, so mightn’t that be a worrying sign in regards to the control factors inherent in giving out their addictive Methadone to addicts?
These are valid points, and they indeed worry me, giving me much pause for thought. Especially in light of all the evidence of CIA, and other intelligence agencies being involved with the smuggling of drugs over the last thirty or forty years into the US, thereby contributing to the cause and effect cycle that is evident in the whole War On Some Drugs scenario, including the drug treatment industry. Methadone can and does improve the “quality of life” of both the addict and those around him/her. Yet it is a synthetic creation, and certainly not as clean as heroin could be, were it legal and under regulative control like alcohol, rather than in the hands of hoodlums on street corners cutting it with poison and shit, creating fodder for the private-prison/law enforcement/military-industrial complex.
I spent a good number of years strung out. I make no bones about it, and accept the responsibility. I swore many times that when I was ready to quit, there would be no way I’d allow myself to go on MMT. But in 1996, after years of hell, going cold turkey over and over only to use again, consistently failing to quit on my own, MMT seemed the only way out, to get away from the authorities butting into my life, and to avoid the sickness I’d have to face kicking yet again. I did get through it, and have done it again since, but have no real argument with a treatment modality that promotes harm reduction- and prohibition causes most harms concerning drug abuse, so removing addicts from the street and LES involvement is certainly classed as harm reduction.
The primary good point I can personally make about Methadone is that I was able to use it to break old habits and change my perspective, and stop getting arrested by asshole cops who made the stupidest jokes I’ve ever heard, and who locked me up in filthier, more dangerous places than even I’d imagined existed.
I certainly never, ever got ‘high’ nor dopey from Methadone, regardless of how it affects some folk. There was no fun to it at all, it just helped me keep away from heroin. But for the War Against Some Drugs and modern prohibition, maybe it wouldn’t have had to be. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone using it in the same fashion that I did, and it can do what it is supposed to if the user wishes it to. I certainly wouldn’t advise it except that for now, there are not all that many alternatives, except abstinence, which is not for everyone. Still, while prohibition is the law of the land, methadone is a necessary evil, as any form of harm reduction is, in my mind, to be supported, at least until better solutions are possible.
http://prestonpeet.wordpress.com/, and can be reached at FB, http://www.facebook.com/preston.peet, or firstname.lastname@example.org. A strict anti-prohibitionist and proponent of legalizing ALL molecules without exception across the board, Preston works tirelessly to help educate people of the dire need to end the evil, destructive yet uber-profitable War on Some Drugs and Users.