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WSU study finds methadone is easier to access in Canada than the U.S.

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
The Spokane Regional Health District is one of the places where methadone is available for opioid addiction treatment.

The research says Americans addicted to opioids often have to drive hours to find methadone clinics.

Washington State University researchers have found that if you’re searching for methadone to treat an opioid addiction, you’re better off going to Canada.

Methadone is a drug with a reputation as an effective treatment for opioid addiction.

Ofer Amram from the WSU College of Medicine and researchers from Yale and Simon Fraser universities collected data from 14 states and three provinces with the highest opioid overdose rates. They surveyed more than 500 clinics that provide methadone. Amram says they discovered where it’s easiest to get the drug.

“In Canada there are methadone clinics, but there are also primary care physicians who are allowed to prescribe methadone treatment so you don’t necessarily have to go to dedicated methadone treatment," he said.

And, Amram says, once you’re established in methadone treatment there, you can pick up the drug at a private pharmacy.

In contrast, he says rural Americans often drive for hours to access methadone. Dedicated clinics are few and far between.

“In Spokane, for example, this one publicly-funded clinic [the Spokane Regional Health District] really serves many counties within eastern Washington, so it’s just one clinic. Moreover, you initiate treatment at this clinic, but you also have to come and receive treatment at the clinic," he said.

One sign, though, that Amram considers positive: he says the U.S. government has extended a pandemic-era rule that allows clinics the option of sending more addicted patients home with methadone rather than requiring them to consume it at the clinic.

The team’s research was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.