Substance use involving tobacco, alcohol and other drugs certainly threatens public health and safety, but the issue for Mainers is not simply prescription drug misuse, as recently suggested by Gov. LePage — it is the disease of addiction, no matter what the substance. It is a complex brain disease driven by genetic, psychological and environmental influences that requires medical attention.
While the governor may believe that "drug abuse in the country is not shrinking — it’s growing," and that "methadone clinics for profit don’t work," his opinion does not measure up to the facts. The percent of the population actually engaged in risky substance use or that is addicted has remained steady over the last decade.
He is right that is imperative to make sure that proscribing procedures work well. But he must understand that methadone has an extraordinary track record of clinical success. Just recently the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, noted, "For more than 30 years, methadone has been used safely and effectively to treat people with opioid addiction, particularly heroin. … We must not lose sight of methadone’s powerful benefits as a therapeutic medication for both pain and addiction."
Mainers, especially our governor, must understand that substance use is a preventable public health problem and addiction is a treatable medical condition. His recent remarks do not point us in that direction.
William H. Foster, Ph.D.
President and CEO
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia)