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Methadone Today

U.S.A. or Nazi Germany?

The raid on a methadone clinic in March 1995 seemed to be the later (Nazi Germany), but it was our very own Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) who, with gestapo-like tactics charged into this methadone clinic with guns drawn, throwing employees to the floor and up against the wall, just as though they were raiding a drug house. In fact, the drug laws in Nazi Germany were much the same as ours today in the good old U.S. of A.

One Saturday morning in March 1995, the DEA stormed an establishment on W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit, MI. Those on the premises were held at gunpoint, hands on the wall, assume the position. Three snipers were in place at strategic points; one was on top of the building, one was on the roof of the church across the street, and one was somewhere in the back of the building. Offices were broken into, desk drawers were pried open with crowbars, arrests were made, and records were confiscated. Some employees were forced to the floor, and one was taken into a room to be interrogated because she protested the harsh language directed at her by a DEA agent.

Well, of course! This was a drug bust, what do you expect? How do you expect the DEA officer to treat drug addicts and those delivering DRUGS?1

The only problem is, those dispensing DRUGS were registered nurses, the offices broken into were private counseling sessions, and the records confiscated were confidential (?) records of addicts receiving treatment at this methadone center. The warrant presented was vague and global, and the fact that there was a warrant makes this more sinister yet--that a judge would allow confidential records of sick people who are trying to get well to be taken. The DEA officers confiscated everything but DRUGS.

Oh, well, that's okay. They are only drug addicts; I mean, it's not as though the DEA broke into a legitimate physician's office with legitimate patients. The DEA didn't take the records of law-abiding citizens.2

No, they only took the records of sick people who have a disease, according to the American Medical Association. This is what mystifies me about all the people we have locked up in our prisons who are addicts--sick people, not criminals except that our criminal justice (?) system has made them so. Why are drugs illegal? The very fact that they are condemns addicts to prison since the inflated price of the drug guarantees they will become involved in criminal activities to feed the addiction. Ever since finding out about the DEA confiscating these records, I've been asking myself, "Why? Why, Why, Why?" The answer is, "Because they wanted to." We have allowed the powers that be to demonize the addict, and we have allowed the government and media to spread their propaganda without restraint. Addicts are an easy target--even addicts who are receiving treatment in methadone maintenance facilities.

The methadone maintenance program keeps addicts off the street, their bodies receive the drug it craves, and addicts can attend to business. Heroin addicts, depending upon the degree of their physical and psychological dependence, can spend all day, every day, using and finding ways and means to obtain the drug, spending hundreds of dollars every day. There is no way the average heroin addict can earn enough money to feed his/her addiction, so they shoplift, commit armed robbery, prostitute themselves and their children, commit burglaries, and sell the drug--anything to get enough money to quiet their tortured withdrawals. The heroin addict is exposed to the dangers of hepatitis, AIDS, abscesses, everything from baking powder to rat poison used to cut the heroin, the scorn of the average person who misunderstands addiction and thinks it is a moral deficiency, and the drug dealers who protect their turfs, just to name a few. The heroin addict has no time to take care of his most basic needs, let alone attend to the demands of a job or education.

With methadone maintenance, the addict doesn't have to face the dangers just mentioned. When the addict enters methadone maintenance, s/he takes care of the physical addiction. With one dose of methadone every day, the addict doesn't have to worry about withdrawal and can do the things that normal people take for granted. Without taking care of that craving, the addict cannot even think about anything else. So, now I wonder again, "What is the purpose of the DEA interfering with the addict's treatment?" We are told that drugs are killing our youth, and the DEA is going to stamp out the illegal drug. Well, that is absurd in the first place--we are nowhere near stamping out any drug, legal or not. Then, why is the DEA messing with all these addicts' records and recoveries? When the addict enters a substance abuse program, s/he is supposedly guaranteed confidentiality. Excuse me, where is this confidentiality? This kind of behavior would not be tolerated in a regular doctor's office, and we should not allow it to be tolerated at a methadone clinic.

While we're on the subject of the dangers of illegal drugs, it is appropriate to expose some of the propaganda our guardian government and moral superiors perpetuate. Certainly, media attention is given to overdose and death of a celebrity when using an illegal drug, and any premature death is tragic. However, deaths due to all illegal drugs combined was about 4,000 the year this raid was executed, compared to 200,000 deaths per year due to alcohol alone. It is amazing to me that an anti-drug message is shown, "your brain on drugs is like this egg frying", and an advertisement showing a sexy football hero, with an equally sexy-looking lady on his arm, drinking a Lite beer, is shown back to back. What is amazing is that alcohol, which is associated with 3/5th of the nation's murders, destroys brain cells which are never replaced, but opiates are not associated with any measurable organic damage. And, methadone has been tested and retested, and people have been maintained on the drug for upwards of 20 years with very little negative side effects. The most common are constipation and sweating; even these usually subside once the patient is stabilized.

Take most of these addicts off methadone maintenance, and there is no place to go other than back into criminal activities and illegal channels to obtain their drug. If the DEA and our lawmakers were really concerned (they're not) about addicts and the effects of the drugs, why in the world would they interfere with the treatment of the 3,000 addicts enrolled in this program? Don't we have enough addicts in prison now? Our War on Drugs and Get Tough on Crime is a bunch of propaganda and a free ride for politicians. It's a pretty good deal for politicians when they can keep people focused on degenerate addicts (sick people), criminals (addicts), and welfare recipients (poor people)--those who usually don't have a say--that way they can do their dirty deeds, chip away a little more at our rights, and have the support of the public whose rights they erode.

Methadone is a synthetic drug, and it costs only pennies to manufacture. For pennies a day, an addict can be maintained so that s/he can work, go to school, and take care of him/herself physically. When addicts are on methadone maintenance, they are not out on the street taking illegal drugs. There is such strict control of the methadone maintenance program by the regulatory agencies that even though it costs only pennies a day to maintain the addict, it costs $60-$100 per week for a private pay patient at some clinics.3

Some addicts are on Social Security Disability, and Medicaid pays for the methadone maintenance. Congress is preparing to cut off this aid, and it sounds as though the taxpayer will be getting a good deal. To anyone worried about their tax dollar, though, these are the hard facts: The total to maintain an addict is approximately $5,500 disability, and Medicaid's tab is $2,600-$5,200 (they pay $50-$100 a week for methadone maintenance), for a total of about $8,100-$10,700 a year. When the addict is on the street, many times that is stolen per year, and that is reflected in higher costs to the consumer. When the addict gets caught, the state then picks up the cost--$25,000-$40,000 per year to incarcerate a person. Now, why in the world would anyone want to jeopardize any addict who is attempting to become a productive member of society by receiving treatment at this center?

The criminal has always been on the line because it seems most agree s/he has no rights, and some have to work only a little to extrapolate to the addict because they are bad people with no morals. Most criminals used drugs anyway, and most addicts are criminals. Anyone who is not in those two categories does not have to worry though, do they? Most of us aren't in those categories, so that's okay. We've already got an inordinate amount of black men in prison, and many others are on probation or parole, and that's okay too. As long as I keep MY rights, I don't have to worry about any of those other people.4

1 The italics at the end of paragraphs indicate the answer that a biased, uninformed, or uninvolved person might give to the thoughts in that paragraph.

2 These are legitimate physicians, and just like any other person going into any other clinic, the patient's standing in the legal community should have nothing to do with their medical problems, and vice versa.

3 Some patients have to see a counselor once a week, a doctor once a month, drop a urine once a week, and a nurse dispenses the methadone. Some patients have to come into the clinic every day to dose, while others have take-homes and only have to go the clinic once a week. Any take-homes over 7-14 need to be approved by regulatory agencies. Many of these restrictions should be decided by the counselors who know the patients instead of an agency somewhere who has their own agenda and doesn't know the patient at all.

4This is definitely not true. There is no small injustice--when the rights of any are threatened, the rights of all of us are threatened. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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