Methadone is prescribed for two main reasons: for pain relief, and for the treatment of opioid dependence. The methadone maintenance program in Ontario is administered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The purpose of the program is to improve the quality and accessibility of methadone maintenance treatment in Ontario, because methadone itself has already been recognized as an effective tool in the fight against opiate addiction.
In conjunction with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Ontario College of Pharmacists, the College conducts outreach activities and recruits physicians and addiction clinics in Ontario to prescribe methadone for the treatment of opioid dependence.
More about the Methadone Program in Ontario
Studies have shown that patients who participate in the methadone program have a very good chance of going on to lead normal, productive lives, free from the ravaging social, economic and health consequences of opiate addiction. Patient care and access to treatment have greatly improved in the nearly 20 years since the College of Physicians and Surgeons became involved in administering the program and developing its standards and guidelines.
In addition to preventing deaths that occur from the abuse of such opiates as heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone, the methadone maintenance program has been shown to have many other benefits for patients in Ontario:
- Improved health among users
- Reduced abuse of illegal (street) or illicit (prescription) drugs
- Decrease in transmission of fluid-transfer diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C
- Decrease in crime and illegal activities
- Increased employment
Regulations to Better Help Ontario Methadone Patients
The methadone program has sometimes been critically evaluated because of the fact that methadone, in itself, is a dangerous controlled substance with the potential to cause harm if improperly used. It can cause fatal overdose, and can be misused by addicts who attempt to circumvent its slower-acting properties on their own. That’s why physicians receive guidelines on how to achieve the best possible outcomes for their patients. These guidelines include:
- Dispensing instructions: pharmacists are required to dispense the medication mixed in orange juice, to be consumed immediately by the patient in front of the pharmacist, to prevent later injection or diversion of the drug
- Individuals who participate in a methadone treatment program are required to follow their dispensing doctor’s rules for the program
- Urine screening and doctors’ visits for participants
Patients may be discharged from a methadone program for failing to adhere to these rules.
When administered with the safety precautions outlined above, the methadone program has been shown to be effective in helping patients in addiction clinics in Ontario.