The state is developing treatment rules prompted by legislation that will significantly limit how much drug addiction treatment medication patients can take home. New limitations will be set on methadone, the most commonly used medication to treat drug addiction.
Federal law caps the amount of methadone patients can take home. If someone’s been in treatment for at least six months, they can get three doses to take home per week. After a year, they can get 14 days worth of the medication; after two years, 30 days.
Dean Babcock runs the Midtown Community Mental Health Center in Indianapolis. He says take home meds provide a powerful incentive for patients to comply with treatment.“The elimination of take-homes really poses a hardship on the people who are making the most progress” he says.
Legislation passed by the General Assembly this year requires the state to create rules that cap take home amounts at seven days – regardless of treatment time.
Salem Republican Representative Steve Davisson, the bill’s author, says it’s meant to help ensure methadone isn’t getting into the community and being abused. But Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction assistant medical director Leslie Hulvershorn says that rarely happens.
“We have a few of them each year, of someone left their methadone in the bathroom and now it’s missing," says Hulvershorn. "We always wonder, was it stolen or did they sell it? But there are very few of those incidents that are reported to us, so it’s hard for me to believe that take homes are just driving a big overdose problem.”
Davisson notes that the bill allows for exceptions. If the seven day limit poses a particular hardship on a patient, for instance, if they have to travel a long way to the treatment facility, the cap can be raised to a 14 day amount.