“We sometimes take the general idea that people with addiction issues can’t choose or think for themselves” (Meyer, 2017, paragraph 4) says Laura Meyer, pioneer of the methadone tapering program.
As a mental health professional, Meyer was used to person-centered treatment where clients get final say in how they want to live. She wanted a way to offer the same choices to addiction clients who wanted to taper off methadone. “I [wanted] to see more choices in medication-assisted treatment,” She explains (Meyer, 2017, p.5).
Meyer said that, at first, all she could offer the many patients who wanted to taper was hope. When she met a man named Walter, however, all that changed. Walter had been a patient at a methadone treatment facility in another state. When he came to Meyer, he had been in treatment without any options for tapering or any help rebuilding his life. Meyer offered Walter a trial and error approach to tapering, and Walter stuck with it. His determination became the foundation for Meyer’s mission to research and educate clients who wanted to taper (Meyer, 2017, p.6).
It took just under 2 years for Walter to successfully complete his taper from methadone. He is happier and healthier than ever and is busy rebuilding his relationship with his children, buying a car and owning a home. “Looking back, getting off the methadone was the easy part–getting my life back together was harder” (Meyer, 2017, p.12), said Walter.
Meyer asked Walter what he felt was the best advice for anyone wanting to taper. Walter said the most important part was having someone tell him he could do it. “I’ll never forget the day I walked into your office and you told me that I can get off the medicine if I wanted. I didn’t and wouldn’t have gotten that at the other clinic” (Meyer, 2017, p.11), Walter explained.
Walter also emphasized that doing the “life part” was essential. Lost relationships, broken trust, and betrayals must all be repaired. It is the hardest work anyone can do. It may never reap rewards, but it has to be done.
Meyer remembers how hard Walter worked at both tapering and repairing the damage his addiction had done. In the first year, the two focused on the basics of life: Getting a job, a car, a place to live and Walter’s health. Meyer recalls that at that time her primary job was to help Walter to not give up, especially when they tackled emotional pain and attempted to regain lost integrity.
The second year they began the actual taper off methadone. While gradually and slowly reducing the amount, Meyer and Walter worked together to incorporate better lifestyle choices including eating healthy meals and joining a gym. They also continued their work on emotional support issues and developing spiritual connections of Walter’s choosing.
Meyer encouraged Walter to see a regular doctor for the side effects she knew would challenge the final days of his taper. “If you feel you need to go to a methadone clinic to resolve your withdrawal symptoms, you may not be ready to taper” (Meyer, 2017, p.17), she cautioned.
Education is now the primary weapon Meyer uses against tapering failures. “My hope is to increase and share people’s stories of success to help anyone who finds themselves on the opioid road… and wants to get off” (Meyer, 2017, paragraph 22).
For more information on this topic, please read “Opioid Road to Success: Tapering Off Methadone” by Laura Meyer.
Meyer, L. C. (2017, June 22). Opioid Road to Success: Tapering Off Methadone. The Fix. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/opioid-road-success-tapering-methadone