Yvonne Abraham describes the shame associated in our society with being an opioid-dependent patient whose physician has determined the optimal treatment to be methadone maintenance (“Shame clouds their recovery,” Metro, Aug. 1). This great shame prevents patients — especially the most successful patients — from acknowledging their treatment to family, friends, employers, and others, and acts as a major barrier preventing many who need help most from seeking and obtaining it.
Yet methadone maintenance is widely considered to be the gold standard of addiction treatment, and enjoys the strong endorsement of such respected bodies as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization.
Abraham concludes by noting that the shame associated with methadone treatment is society’s problem, and not that of individual patients. This problem, however, will never be solved until it is addressed, and addressed effectively, by our elected and appointed government officials. It’s their obligation to tackle this stigma, and the American public, in the interests of everyone, should demand they meet that obligation.
The writer is president emeritus of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and formerly served as assistant commissioner for addiction with the New York City Health Department.