Methadone client pleads to keep Little Current clinic open

To the Expositor:

The Little Current Methadone Clinic (located in on Water Street in downtown Little Current) as of January 1st was given a 30-day eviction notice. I cannot speak to the exact reasons behind this decision. The following letter is based upon my conversations with the doctor, as well as the employees who work with at the Little Current clinic. It includes my personal experience on the methadone program as I have been on methadone since January of 2012 (one year now). I will talk about the positive, as well as the negative aspects this program has had on my life. I will also speak about the positive and negative aspects this program has on our community. I will inform you of the immediate, and devastating consequences our community as a whole will experience, as well as the immediate, and highly destructive consequences the methadone clients will experience.

As a know-it-all curious teenager I experimented with drugs. I eventually became completely and utterly addicted to painkillers (Oxycontin, percocet, morphine, dilaudid, etc.). We all know that every single person is different. It is well known that for the people who are “addicts,” no matter how life-altering and damaging the effects that the drugs are having on a person, they continue to use and abuse drugs. Drug addiction and alcoholism is a proven, fatal disease. I just could not stop using. Some drugs, like marijuana and speed, are for the most part mentally and emotionally addictive. This means that, easily said, “It’s all in the mind.” However, the drug addiction that the methadone program targets is “painkillers” (aka opiates) which is what I was addicted to.

Painkillers are one of the most horrific addictions because it’s not only mentally and emotionally addictive, it’s a physical addiction as well. Basically, your body becomes physically addicted to the drug. This is devastating because when an addict tries to cut back, or quit using, they experience a withdrawal, which most have explained as “a living hell.” It becomes literally almost impossible to completely stop using without some sort of help. Withdrawal can last for as little as three days, up to two weeks, and possible even longer. The most common symptoms of this withdrawal are: vomiting, diarrhea, complete loss of appetite, sleeplessness, restlessness, and unbearable muscle and joint pain, not to mention intense physical and psychological cravings. It makes full-grown 200-pound men scream and roll on the floor and cry. Cry because of the pain, cry because of the hurt they’ve caused, cry for the mistakes they’ve made, and cry over how vulnerable and lost they have become. And more importantly, cry because they know that they can’t do this alone. Using drugs is easy. Getting off of drugs is hard. Getting through the withdrawal is harder than anyone can imagine. This is why people continue to use and abuse, and continuously relapse.

This is where intensive therapy comes in to play. This is where rehabilitation comes into play. This is where the methadone comes into play. Methadone is a safe (when used properly), highly monitored and effective program for the treatment of addiction to painkillers. Addicts attempt the methadone program when they’ve previously failed at staying sober—when they’ve exhausted all other resources.

When someone who is addicted to opiates goes on the methadone program, there is an immediate improvement. The addict begins to crave drugs less and less. They start to slow the use and abuse of drugs. Once a methadone client gets to the proper dosage for them, they completely stop using opiates. This is why, number one, they no longer crave opiates. Number two, they simply can’t have them. Methadone targets specific receptors in the brain, the same receptors that opiates target. Methadone, easily put, shuts off those receptors. The result of this is the inability to “get high.” Yes, that’s correct. You can no longer get high when you’re on methadone. Not even if you take larger and larger amounts of opiates. No matter how many painkillers you take, when you’re at you’re proper dose of methadone, you simple cannot get high.

For me, methadone has been an extremely important factor of my recovery. Prior to getting on the methadone program, I tried everything to get sober and stay off drugs. I went to treatment at rehabilitation centers. I regularly met with an addiction counsellor. I tried moving to a new location. I tried over and over again to just stop using. I took advantage of all the resources in my community, and then some. But I was still not successful. I would get sober for a while, and then relapse. Get sober again, and then relapse. And every time that I relapsed, my life got worse and worse. I was physically sick. I turned to crime to support my habit. I lost friends. I dropped out of school. I lost numerous jobs. I broke the trust of my family. And even though I had all the support and resources you would assume somebody would need to make a positive change and just get clean, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wanted to so badly. It broke my heart when I realized what I had done to myself and my family. Also what I did to the community I grew up in. It’s become more and more difficult to find employment. Nearly impossible now. I lost years of my life. I lost everything important to me. But I did not give up. I continued to try and try and try.

At first, I too was weary of the methadone program. I was not 100 percent sure of what to expect, if it would work for me, or if it was even worth the risk. Going on methadone was an important decision I had to make. Because once on methadone, you cannot get off of it right away. It takes time. You need months and months of sobriety on the program, and then you start slowly coming off by getting lower and lower doses. But I did it. I got on the program. I had already tried everything else, and was getting closer and closer to rock bottom. I was out of options. As I said, I got on methadone in January of 2012 and have been on it for about a year now. It took me about two-to-three months to get to a proper dose, for me, and then guess what…sobriety! I did not crave pain pills at all anymore and I’ve been sober from painkillers ever since! I got to my highest dose of 120 mg, and I’m actually on my way down. I’ve been coming down five milligrams every week now for about two months and I feel great! After getting sober I was able to find employment. I’ve started re-building the relationships with my family. And I am now comfortable with myself, as an individual. And yes, there have been bumps in the road along recovery. I’ve made mistakes. But overall, methadone gave me life. I’m stable. And I’m in the process of re-entering the community as a healthy, stable individual. That is what the methadone program is all about!

Now, back to the point at hand. Beginning February 1, the Little Current methadone clinic must close. They were given a 30-day eviction notice. I cannot stress how devastating this will be! The nearest clinic is in Espanola. Every member of the methadone clinic will not be able to travel back and forth every day!

This would be preposterous. There are currently about 200 people attending the Little Current methadone clinic. Closing the clinic on such short notice will wreak havoc not only on the clients, but to our community as well! This will be detrimental to my, and my peers’, recovery! People can die from methadone! Cutting us off will only cause more damage than good! There are 200 people attending this clinic. Please consider their sobriety. The methadone program saves lives, period. Yes, there has been some less than appropriate behaviour and problems that have arisen because of the clinic. For us, sobriety is our life! The program is necessary in our community! Two hundred people! Two hundred people who every day take the methadone and working at sobriety. They’ve made an important step. They’ve reached out to a resource in the community, an effective resource, for help. Don’t take that help away from us! If we end up get cutting off methadone, this will destroy lives.

I’m not asking you to cancel your eviction. I’m asking for time. Thirty days is not enough time to make plans for 200 clients. Please give us additional time to prepare for this.

I have nine months of sobriety—please don’t take that away from me!

Shawn Mandigo (a methadone client)
Little Current