Letter to the Editor: Citizen shares experience, personal opinion of methadone clinics

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, September 6, 2022

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My opinion and first hand account of methadone clinics:

Methadone clinics are not drug treatment, they are mass drug distribution.

Methadone-assisted “treatment” is a multi-billion dollar industry. From a supply and demand standpoint, the owners of these clinics have both an unlimited supply and unlimited demand for the product. Lines are often 80-deep by 4 a.m. The addict is allowed to decide how much “holds” them. So, what do you think happens? After being on 40 milligrams for a few weeks, the addict doesn’t get the high anymore, so all they have to do is say they are feeling sick or thinking of using another opiate and they will be raised to 50 milligrams the next day.

Within six months of entering the clinic in Baton Rouge, I was increased from 40 to 120 milligrams. On the other hand, if the addict decides they would like to taper down to attempt to get off methadone, they must see their counselor (who usually discourages this), and the doctor (who is never there). So after waiting hours in line for their daily dose, how many addicts do you think chose to wait hours to taper down? That’s right, none. My counselor once told me, “They don’t open these clinics to get people off drugs. They open them to get people on methadone.” The clinics are rarely opened by doctors. It’s business groups, and business is booming.

Clinics usually hire a “quack doctor,” who works for them and plays the game. He knows he works for them, as do all employees, and their marching orders are clear. Money is the only reason investors open methadone clinics. It isn’t a moral duty to help the addict, because methadone does not help. It simply exchanges an illegal drug for a more powerful legal drug.

Methadone at the clinic is not free to the addict. It costs less than a penny to manufacture. It’s usually $15 to $20 a day at the clinic ($105 to $140 a week), and if you’re one cent short, they will not let you in. This money comes before food for themselves, their family, gas or anything else, and they do whatever is needed to get it. I watched a pregnant woman in line for methadone. She walked from the back to the front of the line, propositioning each guy in line until she found a willing participant and they headed behind the building. This was her routine if she was short on cash. This continued until she was clearly showing and appeared to be 8-1/2 months along.

The ones in New Orleans and Baton Rouge also have a medical director. I was there three years, and I never saw him. They had counselors who got high in our meetings and were “ducking out.” I looked up during a mandatory group session and noticed the counselor passed out. I walked to the front, signed my name and no one ever knew I left.

They are not sanitary. There were needles in the parking lot regularly. I walked into the bathroom inside one day and a guy had the lid off the back of the toilet, drawing the water out to shoot up. Multiple people daily would vomit all over the ground while standing in line, because they were either on too high or too low of a dose. The clinics are not safe. Fights were common in the parking lot and could happen for something as trivial as “tipping” in line. I got hit by a car in the parking lot by someone who “fell asleep.” He was so high he put his car in reverse, ran into me, and then rammed into three parked cars. His door was locked. We could see him inside. He came to, put it into drive and ran into another group of people waiting in line before smashing into more parked cars. He went into forward and reverse multiple times, before someone busted his window out and a group of guys drug him out of the car and beat him up in the parking lot. The police came, but of course “no one saw anything,” because half of them had warrants and everyone hated the cops.

You also knew there were cameras on the building, and the staff would get suspicious if they saw you talking to the police. As you progress in the program you’re given “take homes,” which means you don’t have to come seven days a week. It’s usually reduced to five and then down a day each time until you’d only come one day a week and they’d give you a week supply. This is held over your head and used as punishment. Staff will threaten your “take homes” and make you come seven days a week for the slightest infraction. You will be able to spot the few people who only come one day a week because they’ll have boxes with locks tethered to their wrists with handcuffs. It’s a trick of the trade to keep others from running by and snatching it in the parking lot.

The crime will go up. While methadone blocks other opiates, it does not block other drugs. Amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine, those will all be sold in the parking lot. Not just by Bogalusa drug dealers, but by the ones who come from all over following the addicts.

LDH is allowing these predatory investors to open this methadone treatment clinic here because they believe Bogalusa has an opiate problem. Bogalusa doesn’t have an opiate problem. Bogalusa has a sin problem. If it wasn’t opiates, it would be cocaine and crack. If it wasn’t crack, it would be methamphetamine or alcohol. If it wasn’t alcohol, it would be pornography or whatever. Because drugs are not the problem, they are a symptom of our sin problem.

The community coming together at the city council meeting was great but Bogalusa won’t heal until we get that outraged at someone else’s kid or spouse getting hooked on this poison. Because once it’s your kid, it’s too late. You think the four minutes that was allowed to speak at that meeting was short? When it’s your kid, no one will even give you the time of day. Because then you’re not a concerned citizen, you’re “that mom whose kid is a dope head.”

I wish we would’ve had this outrage 25 years ago when OxyContin was pushed and targeted our community. I was written my first prescription for OxyContin at 19 years old. I look at 19-year-olds now and they are just babies. Yet it was prescribed to a kid with a back injury and told it wasn’t addictive. From that day forward it was just one drug to replace another.

I agree 100 percent, Avenue B is a terrible place for a methadone clinic. But if having this outside your businesses or home is bad, I can assure you having it in your home is much worse. If you don’t think it could happen to you, I know my parents would’ve never imagined addiction coming into our home either, but it did. I’d love to see this clinic not come to Bogalusa at all because it tells the addict “this is the best it’ll ever get for you.”

Twelve years ago, I walked out of the methadone clinic, took my daily dose and within 20 minutes I was on the side of the interstate with a broken neck waiting for the helicopter to land. And guess what, I am one of the lucky ones! Literally every thing I have today that matters I wouldn’t have, if I was still standing in those lines. In their opinion I’d be “sober,” but I’d still be a slave to the clinic. I hope this clinic doesn’t come to Bogalusa at all, but if it must, it should be away from any business or residential area. So we’ll fight like heck to get it moved.

But my hope is once we succeed at that, we don’t quit there. If we’re going to fight addiction, let’s fight addiction. Once we’re successful and it ends up out in the woods somewhere, let’s all keep that same fire that was shown at the meeting. Let’s support local churches and ministries trying to fight this battle the right way. Open our wallets, give our time, go with someone to that methadone line and pass out Bible tracts. Show these addicts that the only real answer to solve this problem is to fill them with the love of Christ, which brings about repentance and change. We were all born with a void within us. Addicts turn to drugs and alcohol to fill that void. The more they get, the more they need and it becomes that cycle we all see. Even if addicts get off drugs for a season, they go right back. That void must be filled. The only answer is to fill that void with the love of Christ — that’s what it was designed for. Again, the more you get, the more you need. Only this time, Living Water begins to spring up, and before you know it that addict is now leading the choir, running a business, or possibly showing your child the way to get well and break the chains of addiction.

If you’re reading this, please pray for our city’s sin problem and for the addicts to find the only real answer — through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that brings about repentance and change. Through Him, we do recover. If you’re the parent or loved one of someone with an addiction, DON’T give up on them no matter who tells you that you should. If there is breath, there is hope, and no one is beyond the reach of our God.

Also, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Some of the efforts made lately to curb addiction have been positive. The treatment facility at the old charity hospital is showing promise. I’d love to get involved there one day if my life ever slows down some. Not all halfway houses are bad either. Many, like the Oxford House, are so strict that some of our elite couldn’t stay there. They require drug and alcohol testing, a full-time job, and have a laundry list of rules, etc.

Odie Hughes