I was asked to write about my experiences in the world of addiction recovery (working in it, not a patient). For about 3 months, this winter I was working at a methadone clinic as a security officer.  I met a few patients I would call friends, unfortunately I cannot keep in contact with them as they are patients and I am employed by the company that owns the clinic. 

I saw all kinds of things, from obvious drug deals that were childishly denied to schizophrenic episodes that involved talking in jibberish, playing with rocks and swinging from a tree (yes he was swinging from a tree like a monkey). 

I learned all about medication assisted recovery, which pushed me to form my own opinion on it. Methadone is a narcotic medication that reduces the withdrawal symptoms of opiates (pain pills and heroin mostly) so the patient won't experience "dope sickness" and will be unlikely to relapse. Methadone also is a receptor blocker which means if the patient tries to shoot up while on it they won't get high.  Based on that information, methadone is a good thing, right? 

Basically, it was developed with good intentions, but after seeing first hand how the clinics work, I don't believe it's used with good intentions. Methadone clinics treat patients like a pay check. Technically, for methadone to be effective, the patient should be tapered off of the drug to reduce withdrawal symptoms to nothing. This is not how they run things, I've talked to patients who have asked to be tapered and were denied.  There is a patient there who has been on methadone for 27 years, uhh what??? Meanwhile she is complaining about the side effects, bone loss is a big one. Well yeah if you are taking it every morning for 27 years you are going to have some problems. There is no acceptable reason why the clinic should let her be on it for that long.  Every time a patient walks in the door, they see dollar signs instead of vital signs. 

Now I am no longer in a methadone clinic and I am no longer in security, patients are pretty much the same manipulative and childish mentalities that seem to come with the territory, but they are treated like people, they may get the punishment of children (no, the don't get spankings, considering they are adult males, that can't end well). I have yet to see any of them swing from trees or play in rocks though. 

There are so many recovering addicts that want to get better and there is an equal amount who are going through the motions because of a probation or parole requirement that have no intention of quitting but just want to be released. While this makes my job a bit more difficult it makes the lives of the honest ones much more difficult. Patients have packed up and left stating they can't be in this environment. Don't get me wrong, we do kick out the ones we can catch but on the same note, "rumors" are not evidence. 

The patients are pretty much the same, only now my patients are not only addicted to opiates, they come in with alcoholism and other drugs like meth and stimulants. Also, our idea of recovery is behavior therapy, art therapy and talk therapy, we are methadone friendly, meaning we will take them to the clinic to get inducted to the program or take them to get their dose if they are already a patient. 

I am unsure of recidivism rates between the two clinics so I won't bore you with statistics (especially when I'd be talking out of my ass). I will say that most of my patients now have mental health issues and most of the "episodes" are of the mental health nature rather than childish arguments about what I did or did not see (always my favorite argument, YOU tell ME what I did or did not see). 
I am much happier now without the micro management and treating people like dollar signs, that was not what I signed up for.  They had enough courage to ask for help they deserve to be treated like humans. 

Published by Liz Zemlicka