We'd wake up, find it, no matter how long it takes to find it, and you take it. It's just one bag weren't enough coz we were sharing it. Then the next bag weren't enough...then we found out it was cheaper to buy a bigger amount like a gram ... as soon as we found that out then we would smoke as much as we could. It got
to the stage we were smoking ourselves silly,smoking ourselves to death and it was killing us ..." My habit got so high that we...had to sell things... We weren't paying no bills..."
(Editor's Note: This is the first of a four part series of stories on people who have been
helped through methadone Treatment.)
Many people believe that methadone treatment replaces one addiction for another.
But Joe Chapman, clinical director of the Williamson Treatment Center, cites that facility's 81 percent success rate as proof that the program works.
Chapman said there are many success stories which outweigh the negativity covered by the news media.
“Only the bad news receives newspaper and television coverage,” Chapman said. “But we have a lot of successful patients who have completed the program and you never hear those stories It's the negative perception that people hear. They don't hear about the success rate we have experienced.”
The Williamson Treatment Center was established May 6, 2003. Approximately 2,275 people have sought treatment and the patient roster stands at 738 at this time. It is described as an opiate treatment facility for people who have an addiction to painkillers.
Chapman said many of those who have become addicted to opiates have been involved in a serious accident or undergone surgery.
Chapman said they use two methods of treatment - methadone and suboxone.
“These are medications used to assist people in getting off of painkillers,” Chapman said. “When you take methadone it stops the cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If a patient does try to take a painkiller, the methadone will block the high. The suboxone basically does the same thing.”
Chapman said most of the time it's difficult for people to get off pain medication and many can't do it the conventional way such as cold turkey, narcotics anonymous, nor with inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment.
“Using these methods, many experience numerous relapses,” he said.
Chapman explained that methadone was invented during World War II by the Germans to treat people with pain.
“That's how it got started,” Chapman said. “It was discovered that the drug could be used to help people who were addicted to other pain medications.”
The oldest patient to undergo treatment has been in their late 60s, Chapman said and the youngest 18 years of age.
Methadone mixed with other drugs can be deadly to anyone, Chapman said.
“That's what happens a lot of times,” he said “Those who come to the clinic know this. However, the general public is uneducated about the drug. When they take the methadone with other drugs trying to get high, it can result in death.”
Chapman said he cannot emphasize enough that these drugs must be taken properly and not mixed with other drugs.
“Methadone treatment works,” he said. “It is the best treatment that research has discovered that actually works for opiate addicts. But the patient has to be willing to work the program properly.”
In 1996, he became addicted to painkillers after undergoing knee surgery. By 1997, he was a full blown addict.
Following his surgery, Jack said the doctor prescribed Tylox and this was his first introduction to opiates. Later he started dabbling with OxyContin with one of his friends who had also suffered an injury.“We started experimenting with drugs and one thing led to another. Soon I was hooked,” he said.
OxyContin became his drug of choice, said 41-year-old Jack.
Jack's identity is being concealed for the protection and privacy of his family.
“But any opiate would do in a pinch,” he said. “There was so much OxyContin on the market that it was easy to get.”
Before the surgery, Jack said he had never taken any medication other than Tylenol.
“I had gotten to the point where I couldn't get out of bed without taking 40-80 mgs. of OxyContin,” he said. “There were times I was taking 280 mgs. I have spent as much as $3,000 a day for drugs. However, on an average day, I was using 80-120 mgs. Each pill cost $1 per milligram.”
Although he began on a downward spiral, Jack said he never became a hard core criminal.
“I jumped from job to job and was unemployed for months at a time,” Jack said. “I got money from family members, I never robbed anyone but I did start to scam my family.”
His mother became ill and his wife, who is employed as a school teacher, left him because he constantly stole from her. He lost his car, his home and blew his bank account. He even sold Christmas gifts his wife had bought to buy drugs.
“I had no one to turn to, no options, I became suicidal,” Jack said. “The drugs made my problems go away for a while.”
Jack, who associates depression with addiction, said he had a friend - his dealer - who started going to the Williamson Treatment Center and he could see the changes he was undergoing.
“I had twice tried rehab and even though I had gone through detox, on the drive home I was thinking about drugs.
Finally, I called to make an appointment at the treatment center but canceled because of hearing negative publicity,” he said. “Even though I knew my friend had stopped selling and using drugs.”
Jack said when he finally showed up for an appointment, within a week of counseling and treatment, he knew the program was going to work for him.
“Since I started the program, I have never failed a drug screen nor bottle check. I undergo counseling, I abide by the stringent and strict rules and have earned privileges. Methadone takes away the cravings but there are so many misconceptions about methadone,” he said. “I believe had it not been for the clinic, the people who work here and the methadone, I would be dead or in jail.”
Seventy to 80 percent of people who join the program see a marked improvement in their lives, Jack said.
“Without the negative publicity so many people could be helped,” he said. “The Williamson Treatment Center saves lives.”
Today, Jack holds down a job and helps to care for his dying father. He has worked to regain the trust of his family.
“There were times, when I was in my addiction, that I stole prescription drugs from my father and I have to live with that,” he said. “Now I'm the one who helps to administer his daily medications.”
Jack said he never wants to go back to being an addict, being sick and on the streets.
“Now when I wake up, I feel like I did before I became an addict,” he said. “I no longer have the cravings - I would rather die than go back to that lifestyle.”
Jack said he is also hoping to reconnect with his ex-wife, rebuild the trust they once shared and one day get remarried.
His plans are to go back to school to get a degree in counseling. Jack serves as a patient advocate for the treatment center.
(Editor's Note: This is part two of a four part series which comes from people who have been helped through methadone treatment.)
WILLIAMSON - Today she is attending school to get a degree in social work in order to become a counselor.
She has money in her pocket again and has regained the trust of her husband and family. But, for a along time, this was not the case - Michelle was addicted to OxyContin.
One night while at her lowest point, Michelle went out in the dead of winter with snow on the ground, barefoot, in a tank top and shorts to score drugs. Three days before, she was at the same residence where she freaked out watching two people who were smoking crack cocaine. On that occasion before she could get any drugs, she ran back to her car and vowed never to go back again.
“I told myself I would never go back,” she said. “But three days later, there I was because I was going through withdrawal symptoms.”
Michelle's story of addiction began after she was involved in an automobile accident, in which the lower part of her back was broken. She also sustained a serious knee injury. (For the protection of Michelle and her family her real name is not being used.)
Before being referred to a pain clinic, she was going to the emergency room every night because of the excruciating pain.
“My orthopedic surgeon referred me,” she said. “He had tried injections and everything else but I didn't seem to be getting any better.”
During her first appointment, Michelle was given OxyContin for the pain.
“I asked then and every visit thereafter if I would become addicted to the drug,” Michelle said. “I was always told “no, not if you take it the way it is prescribed, you will not become addicted.”
Michelle said she took the medication exactly as prescribed and did not abuse it, but she still became addicted.
“On two separate occasions, my pills were stolen, I was honest with the doctor about the theft but the second time, he told me he couldn't write me any more prescriptions,” she said. “I was penalized for being honest.”
When she was getting her prescription from the pain clinic, Michelle said she never sold her drugs.
She started buying OxyContin on the street and before long was up to a $100 a day habit.
“I was at my lowest. I had hit rock bottom,” she said. “I found out that a friend of the girl I was buying from was being treated at the Williamson Treatment Center. I was so sick at the time, I couldn't get high enough. My body would barely function and it felt as if my bones were disintegrating.”
Michelle credits the love and support of her husband with her decision to seek help.
“In the beginning he knew I was not seeking to get high, but trying to get relief from the pain,” she said. “But in the end it was all about getting high.”
After talking to a friend who was going to the clinic, Michelle said she prayed about it and then called and spoke to a counselor.
“I was told there was no opening and it would be about 31 days before I could get an appointment,” she said. “But I heard so many negative things about the clinic I almost didn't come.”
But Michelle wanted to get off drugs so badly that she would drive three hours each day on the slim chance that she would be able to fill a missed appointment.
“I wanted help,” she said. “I had prayed for God to help me help myself.”
“Drugs will take you places you don't want to go and make you do things you said you would never do,” Michelle said.
“OxyContin had such a hold on me that it was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I thought about before I went to bed,” she said. “You love the drug more than anything, it becomes your whole life.”
Michelle has been in the treatment program for three years and is starting to titrate off the methadone. She eventually had to have her back rebroken and a steel rod inserted.
“I love life,” she said. “I pay my bills on time, I'm trustworthy, I have regained my husband and family's trust. At one time, I would go to the grocery store and only buy food to pack in my husband's lunch because I was spending the other money on drugs.”
Michelle said she refuses to go back to her old life of addiction.
“I have seen what this program will do. I have money now, I can go in the store and buy what I want,” Michelle said. “A lot of people have a negative outlook, but if you want it to work it will. You undergo counseling which you pay for in addition to the methadone.”
She gets the tools from treatment to stay clean, Michelle said.
“This place is a blessing. It has saved my life,” she said. “It hurts me to see people talk negatively about the center. I'm one of those people who have gotten their life back because of the clinic.”
Michelle has never tested positive for drugs since being in the program and has been rewarded for her success.
“I get to take my medication home with me now,” she said. “But in the beginning I had to come to the clinic on a daily basis and have them administer the methadone.”
The Treatment Center provides the opportunity for those who need it to get help and to straighten out their life, Michelle said.
(Editor's Note: This is part four of a four-part series which comes from people who have been helped through methadone treatment.)
By AUDREY CARTER
Editor: Deborah Shrira Revised: January 2008