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Methadone Maintenance and Sober Living

Sober Living a new option for those in methadone maintenance programs.
Sober Living a new option for those in methadone maintenance programs.

What happens to people in a methadone maintenance program, but have no place to live where they can work to rebuild a healthier life? Many people come from environments rife with violence. Many have lived in a home where one or more other family members are still doing drugs, and they can’t go back to that. There are also many cases involving a person with opiate addiction who simply has no home to go back to. Sometimes sober living houses can provide the help a person needs.

In the not-too-distant past, there would have been no option to try a sober living environment if you were in medication-assisted treatment, even if you had reached the methadone maintenance phase. Because of the old stigmas about methadone treatment, people in these programs were treated by others as if they had simply traded one addiction for another, and they were not accepted into sober living homes.

Those in sober living environments had little respect for people on methadone maintenance and spoke out loud and clear against admitting them. They simply felt that the person was not really clean. Their poor attitude was mostly due to a lack of education about opiate addiction and the best ways to manage it.

Opiate Addiction Is Different

It’s not easy to kick any kind of addiction, but opiate addiction brings its own special challenges. In many cases, a person addicted to opiates has found themselves in trouble after taking pain pills for a chronic medical condition. Even if they try to stop taking the pain pills, the medical condition may persist, making it difficult to stay clean. When a person addicted to pain pills or heroin goes into withdrawal, their symptoms and the cravings that they experience bring them to the brink of relentless relapse, and they may experience a “flashback” of those symptoms even months after they’ve stopped taking them. Approximately 80 percent of the people who go into abstinence-based treatment for opiate addiction will relapse.

For them, the answer is methadone maintenance, a medication proven to calm the withdrawal symptoms and allow the person to live each day normally. Methadone is an opiate, it’s true—but it stays in the system much longer than pain pills or heroin. While someone on pain pills may be fighting the urge to take more after just four hours have passed, the person on a methadone maintenance program can last a full 24 hours or more. Also, the person who takes pain pills or moves on to heroin will get their dose and then nod out—basically unable to function from the side effects of the drugs they’ve taken. Methadone does not cause those problems. Someone in a methadone maintenance program can take his daily medication dosage and then go on to work, and go home in the evening to their family, enjoying full and complete days lived in a state of equilibrium.

Sober Living Available For Those on methadone maintenance

In the past, sober living recovery centers did not accept people in a methadone maintenance program, which means they take a low but long-term dosage of methadone. The administrators and the clients alike believed that having people on methadone maintenance among them would trigger a desire to use among the other residents. They had little education about the treatment or its inherent benefits.

Now, with opiate addiction growing in this country to unprecedented numbers, treatment providers are looking for ways to protect their patients on methadone maintenance, and sober living housing seemed like good opportunities for them. The Americans with Disabilities Act has changed the world for people who have graduated from abstinence-based recovery as well as those who are on methadone maintenance.

It was 2007 in Los Angeles when people in a neighborhood became aware of a sober living home in their midst. They complained to the police and to the city’s zoning officials, but they met with resistance. Eventually the residents invoked the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect their rights as assured by the Fair Housing Act.

Nobody liked it that the people in recovery won their right to maintain their sober living home, but win they did. And now, the people who are on methadone maintenance have evoked the same legislation because they believe they should have the same access to a sober living environment as any person in recovery.

There are organizations that recognize recovery through methadone maintenance and want to help those individuals live freely and preserve their treatment. Volunteers of America is a national organization that will help people on methadone maintenance find sober living arrangements. Most likely, however, there is a place right in your own community that your counselor will know about. They can help you find the sober living environment you need where you can start a new life when you’ve reached the phase of methadone maintenance.

If you feel hopeless about your addiction because you feel you can never get away from opiates or heroin, call your local methadone program to get started on treatment. They can help you begin methadone therapy and make the referrals you need for all aspects of your life. By the time you reach the phase of maintenance on methadone, you may be ready and able to move into a sober living environment. Your life can get better.

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