Karla News

Are Methadone Clinics a Good Thing? A Former Methadone Addict Weighs In

Methadone was first synthesized in Germany during World War II as an alternative to morphine. In 1947 Eli Lilly brought methadone to market in the USA, and in 1964 researchers at Rockefeller University used it to treat heroin addicts for the first time. Today, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals is the leading producer of methadone in the United States. Methadone clinics can be found in towns both large and small all across the nation.

With the emergence of methadone clinics came a new way of thinking regarding the best treatment for heroin addicts. Rather than pushing for abstinence, the idea is to assume that many people will choose to abuse drugs anyway; so the best approach is to attempt to minimize the deadly effects of their addiction. The philosophy behind the creation of methadone clinics is very similar to the philosophy behind the Safe Sex message.

There are both public (federally funded) and private clinics available in the United States. Addicts can obtain methadone from a public clinic for around $10 a day and only about half of the users pay for their own treatment.

The debate over the effectiveness of methadone clinics is a heated one. I had the opportunity to talk with a former methadone addict regarding his experience with (and opinion of) methadone clinics. Here is what he had to say.

Q: Why did you start going to a methadone clinic?

I was addicted to many different kinds of prescription drugs; some for pain, some for anxiety. A mutual friend introduced me to a man who had been going to a methadone clinic for almost four years. Every day the clinic would give him what they called a split-dose. He would take a dose of methadone at the clinic, then they would give him a second dose of 5-6 tablets. Each tablet was the equivalent of four 10 mg. methadone pills. These tablets were to be taken later in the day at home.

Instead of taking the second dose, he would sell the pills to other people. He actually made enough money from the pills to support himself financially. He hasn’t had a job for years. He is also on food stamps and welfare. He charges around $20-$30 per tablet.

See also  Elephants and LSD

I eventually started buying some of his pills. In the beginning the methadone gave me a much stronger high than the prescription medications I had been taking and it stayed in my system longer. After a while I wasn’t able to get high off the methadone, but I kept taking it anyway. At first it would take several days before I felt withdrawal symptoms, but soon I needed to take the pills everyday to not feel sick. He encouraged me to go to the clinic with him so I could get more of the methadone at a much cheaper price.

Q: How did you break free from the clinic and your methadone addiction?

After going to the clinic everyday for three months I started to get sick of the addiction. The clinic would not give me any help once I told them I wanted to detox. I found out that unlike heroin (which only takes 4 days or so for withdrawal), methadone takes 4-6 weeks or more. I knew I couldn’t do it alone so I decided to move back in with my parents who lived in another state.

In the process I found out about a drug called Suboxine which was supposed to stop all of the withdrawal symptoms of methadone (and other drugs). Suboxine costs about $7 a day (you take one pill per day) and is somewhat difficult to obtain. Only certain doctors will prescribe it.

I was fortunate enough to find a doctor in the area that would work with me. After the first dose I could tell that it was going to help. The Suboxine didn’t make me high or have any of the side effects of methadone (drowsiness, severe constipation, sweating, loss of sex drive, disturbed sleep, dental problems and weight gain). After a few days I felt like a new person. I had no cravings or desire for drugs. I felt better than I had in years.

After taking the Suboxine for three weeks I was able to avoid the horrible symptoms of methadone withdrawal. Now that I have dealt with my physical addictions, I am leaving soon to participate in a year-long drug rehabilitation program to deal with my mental addictions and weaknesses as well.

See also  The Pain Reliever Battle: Motrin IB Vs. Tylenol

Q: Do you think that methadone clinics are helping people?

The program really makes no sense to me. Why would the government grant money to give you a drug that actually hooks you even more? With heroin, once you go through the 3-4 day detox period, you’re over it. With methadone, even after the 4-6 week physical withdrawal period, there are months and even years of healing that needs to take place mentally. It is a much stronger drug as far as addiction goes.

One of my friends had always weighed around 160 pounds. After going to a methadone clinic for less than a year he now weighs over 300 pounds (weight gain is a side effect of taking methadone). I know many people who are taking around 200 mg. of methadone per day. Methadone clinics start out giving you 30 mg. per day. It seems that there are no limits to the amount they will give you. They even encourage you to take more. Detox is not an option. It’s either stay on the methadone or don’t come back.

I know people who have been going to a clinic for over 20 years. For them methadone is a way of life until they die. I suppose that there are people who are being helped by the clinics, but frankly I have never met any of them. I don’t understand why drugs like Suboxine are not offered as an alternative. I hope that sometime in the future the powers that be will see how the system is abused and try to find another way that will actually bring healing, and not just another addiction.


This is only a portion of my discussion with this person. I was amazed that some addicts are able to obtain methadone pills from a clinic and then sell them on the streets. The proponents of methadone clinics say that one of the benefits of obtaining legal methadone is that it gets the addict off the street and keeps them from having to do business with drug dealers. Unfortunately, it appears that quite a few of the addicts turn into drug dealers themselves.

See also  Cymbalta's Side Effects: How I Decided If the Drug was Right for Me

I’m sure that there are people who have had their lives changed for the better because of methadone clinics. The problem is that the program does not address the core root of addiction, but merely allows the addict to minimize the horrible problems associated with drug addiction. There is no motivation to get clean.

Some long-term methadone addicts rationalize that even though they have been going to methadone clinics for decades, they consider themselves “clean” because of the methadone. Another problem with long-term methadone use is what it does to your body physically. Liver failure, rotting teeth, obesity, brittle bones, and many more serious conditions occur with the continued use of methadone.

There are some who think that people should have the choice to use drugs as much as they want and that all drugs should be legalized. I agree that if a person wants to be an addict that they should have that choice. What I have a problem with is that the rest of society has to pay for their addiction; not only financially, but in many other ways as well.

Maybe one solution is to require all methadone clinics to become private, stop government funded methadone distribution, and instead use the currently allocated funds to explore alternative solutions (like Suboxine) that will not promote long-term addiction. Sadly, reversing the current trend of our government to promote long-term methadone addiction is probably not going to happen anytime soon.