My Brother Died from an Overdose - But Methadone Might've Saved His Life

By
Carli Wargo
Man looking at sunset in the distance

During Recovery Month, we should celebrate all of the paths to recovery - including methadone, a medication that is far too stigmatized, yet saves lives.

In December 2014 my brother died from an accidental heroin overdose. 

He had been incarcerated for drug possession charges. He had a substance use disorder, he was struggling, he was homeless, and he started using heroin to numb the pain of the past. Back then, substance use disorder was less understood than it is today. His body had been forced to detox during his incarceration and he was at high risk of having an overdose. He was not offered medications to decrease cravings.

My brother was released without medication to help his disease, without access to support, or referrals for treatment. 

Once he was released, in an attempt to feel "normal" he used heroin. Likely going through symptoms of withdrawal, he used drugs for the last time and ultimately died of an overdose. His body could not handle the same amount of heroin that it had in the past. He was gone at 21 years old. 

Methadone can prevent these tragic deaths. 

Today, thankfully many people with substance use disorder have options - including taking medications to support their recovery. Methadone is one of these medications

Unfortunately, many people do not utilize this medication due to stigma and the false spread of information. Methadone decreases cravings, symptoms of withdrawal, and blocks the effects of opioids. Methadone allows people to live meaningful lives.

In my professional career in treatment and recovery, I have heard many of these stigmatizing comments: “Methadone is just a replacement for heroin,” and “People on Methadone are drowsy and always seem sedated.” Both of these statements are false. 

Methadone is a medication just like any other medication. It's a treatment for a disease that is killing over 100,000 people a year. By allowing people access to mediation without judgment and stigma, lives will be saved. 

If my brother had been given this choice while he was incarcerated, he might still be alive today. 

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