Officials Consider Vast Expansion Of Methadone!

Officials Consider Vast Expansion Of Methadone!
Posted by FoM on August 11, 1999 at 21:17:09 PT
Scott Andrews, Associated Press Writer
Source: SF Gate
When former thief and drug pusher Walter Lamarr Williams wanted to kick his 14-year heroin habit, he turned to the most successful treatment method: methadone. 
Williams made it through detox, but when he got out, there was no room for another patient in this heroin-plagued city's busy methadone clinics. ``The time I was waiting, I was using,'' he said glumly on Wednesday, remembering the drug use that possibly gave him HIV and Hepatitis C. It was another two months before Williams got back into detox, and another three months before he finally got into a methadone clinic. Other addicts are less diligent. Faced with delays, some abandon treatment permanently. The shortage of methadone treatment in San Francisco -- 2,000 clinic slots for 13,000 to 15,000 addicts -- has led city officials to look at expanding the drug's availability. The Board of Supervisors is considering whether to seek state and federal permission to allow doctors in private offices to prescribe the drug. If the effort is successful, San Francisco would be the first city in the nation to use private doctors for methadone treatment on a widespread basis. Canada, Denmark and other nations already allow it, and limited trials are underway in New York City, Baltimore and Connecticut. Some people are deeply ambivalent about methadone, which is addictive but gets users high only for the first month or so of use. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani last year made a high-profile effort to get methadone users to quit. He backed down after only 16 of the city's 2,100 clinic patients successfully stopped using methadone. No serious opposition has arisen in San Francisco, which has a serious heroin problem. The city ranks third in the nation in heroin-related emergency-room admissions despite being only the 14th most populated city in the nation. Dolores Lucas, a 39-year-old methadone user, said she supports expanding the drug's availability. She became addicted to heroin when she was a 17-year-old runaway, hitchhiking across country. She has a face scarred by years of addiction, disease and life on the streets, and says she is infected with hepatitis C and HIV. To support her habit, she sold drugs and her body. ``I shot anything I could get my hands on,'' she remembers, her bottle of cherry-flavored methadone tucked into her pocket. Since she went on methadone about six years ago, she has been clean and allowed to see her 11-year-old son, she said Wednesday. A fellow patient, 43-year-old John Bogacki says he would appreciate going to a pharmacy rather than a clinic. ``It would be more convenient, more like any other medication. You wouldn't always feel like big brother was looking over your shoulder,'' he said. Last September, the move to make methadone available through pharmacies gained the support of Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White House national drug policy director. ``There are far too few clinics throughout the country,'' said Dr. Steven Batki, who led San Francisco General Hospital's addiction-treatment programs for 16 years. ``Less than 180,000 out of a million heroin addicts are in methadone treatment.'' Methadone is illegal in New Hampshire and not available in seven other states, according to the Lindesmith Center, a New York-based drug policy research institute. Estimates for the number of addicts in the United States vary, from 810,000 to 1 million. Estimates for the number of methadone users range from 115,000 to 180,000. SCOTT ANDREWS, Associated Press WriterWednesday, August 11, 1999 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: