One set of parents had to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a methadone clinic in Atlanta, Georgia following the death of their 27-year-old son.
After disclosing the accurate amount of heroin, Xanax, and Valium, he used each day, the couple’s son was given a standard urine drug test, which confirmed the drugs he listed. The clinic employee he worked with then started the young man on a 30 milligram dose of methadone with the intention of reducing opiate use and any possible withdrawal symptoms as he stops.
When the young man went back to the methadone clinic the following morning for his daily dose, he reported feelings the withdrawal symptoms, so a different staff member gave him 40 milligrams of methadone. He then went home to rest, and just a few hours later, his live-in girlfriend found him dead on the couch. The young man had stopped breathing, apparently from too much methadone in his system.
This young man’s parents saw their son go through heavy addiction, and when he is trying to get clean and change his life, a methadone clinic essentially administers a lethal dose of the opiate.
Unfortunately, this family is not alone. The surprising risks of methadone clinics are alarming when the whole purpose of the facilities are to help those trying to quit more harmful substances.
Problems Start with Administration
The problem seems to start with administration. How do you prove an addiction? If the young man said that he was addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers, and his drug test came back positive for opiates, the clinic is taking that as proof of an addiction.
One former heroin addict named Bill said that, “It’s an open-air drug market in those clinics. They’re worse than dope dealers. The way it’s dispensed is wrong.” He was on a methadone maintenance program that required him to visit the clinic everyday for three years. He knows the doses that will get you high, and the ones that will keep you how the drug intended: maintained without withdrawal, cravings, or euphoria.
Lack of Regulation
Methadone clinics are risky because they are often unregulated for years. Staff are responsible for a high volume of patients and keeping track of everyone is leading to improper dosage. Several patients are taking their methadone dose home with them instead of consuming the liquid dose on-site. Some patients could be saving up a few days worth of methadone and taking it all at one time to get high.
The lack of regulation has made it easy for opiate addicts to work the system. A physician is supposed to approve any increase in methadone dose, but when a client says that withdrawal symptoms and cravings are out of control, and there’s a line of twenty other people waiting, many clinic employees are administering the dose without the doctor’s okay.
Make no mistake about it, methadone is a drug. It is an opiate, just like heroin, Vicodin, and OxyContin. It does not mix well with other drugs, like benzodiazepines, and it needs to be regulated milligram by milligram by every methadone clinic set up to administer it to addicts. This is a matter of life and death.
This article is written by Kate who specializes in substance abuse and substance abuse recovery for Balboa Horizons Treatment Services.