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Volume III, Issue 1 (January 1998)
Prejudice Toward Methadone Patients - by Julian Robinson
The Good News Is. . . .The Bad News Is. . . .by Craig L.
Traveling? - Guide for traveling with methadone to different countries
Morality - Odus Green
COUNSELING AT METHADONE CLINICS (Part II) - by Bao Daii
Briefly Speaking - Short items about drugs in history
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Prejudice Toward Methadone Patients
by Julian Robinson
What's curiously interesting to me is the degree of prejudice toward methadone
patients, as well as others who've faltered in their lives via vice. For years,
I've wondered, analyzed, even asked a few people, and though I have never gotten
the truth, I have been able to develop a few theories--three to be exact. I believe
prejudice in this particular case can be broken down into three essential categories:
Jealousy, identification, and fearful ignorance.
First is jealousy. Basically, this can be defined as Person A' wanting what Person B' has. Though I have known a few individuals belonging to this category, it is not an abundantly populated one. Methadone is too easy to get, though it seems when you are trying to get on a program, it is impossible. Strangely enough though, I have had people come to me expressing envy for my having methadone every day. When I advise them they could do the same, they have all sorts of excuses why they CAN'T do it.
Second would be the ignorant fearful. This is an enormous group. With the propaganda fed the masses who are already psychologically stoked and groomed to fear addicts' and abusers', we have become the bane of all existence! All the crime and immorality, including diseases, are our fault!
We are dirty, sweaty, smelly, thieving, lying, cheating fiends who will happily slit your Golden throats, decapitating you for a few pennies. You know, God Forbid I'm a good father, responsible human being, sensitive, and intelligent, whose hygiene is far greater than 90% of the population. It can't be. Now, I'm not saying there aren't drug users that fit into the propaganda mold, but all of us recognize that each and every stereotyped group has a few individuals that form the basis of the stereotype.
I'm Jewish. Obviously, I hear quite a bit of racist crap, especially because I look Italian or Hispanic. Some people say, "You're Jewish? You don't act it or look it." These misguided folk are implying my nose is small, and I'm not rich and cheap/greedy. You can't sink much lower in intelligence to believe these false generalizations, but one thing I've learned is virtually all prejudicial comments and opinions have their basis in some true situation or person.
There are addicts who are sleazy! Some do steal, lie, cheat, et al. Unfortunately for those of us on methadone and trying to live a healthy' life, there are "methadonians" who sell their juice' to buy pills or other drugs, and they have not changed one iota! So, civilians see them in line for methadone, nodding out or causing some ruckus, scaring people, and these civies, with the ignorant help of the media, believe all people on methadone are like this.
This is obviously untrue, yet understandable, considering how our society disseminates its information, especially information of dubious distinction like morals, values, opinions, etc. These are never clear cut or black and white, but purely subjective. Logic and truth have no role here, only the way a person feels, and emotions are not governed by reality'.
The third category, relation to/identification with is by far the most abundant group, though undoubtedly the most difficult to identify. The most obvious example of this is when you cannot stand someone, though you barely know them or when a son or daughter hates their mother or father for no apparent reason. Usually, this boils down to you seeing yourself in the person you cannot stand. What makes this so difficult to comprehend is that it is always someone else who can see the relation between the two people--a friend, therapist, or distant acquaintance, but never you or the object of your animosity.
With ex-cons, ex-addicts, psychiatric patients and/or anyone with an obvious neurosis, many people quite easily see their own potential for that behavior. For me, I look at gamblers and basically become very turned off. It seems such a stupid thing to be and do, yet as critical as I can get regarding them, I know my particular dislike is based on the fact that I love gambling, and I know I am very prone to being obsessed with certain things--i.e. drugs. I know it would not be hard for me to transfer one addiction to another. I have already done it with work several times when I had stopped using drugs.
My negative attitude and feeling turned off stems from my own weakness and insecurity about gambling. I look at gamblers and see what I could become. I see a person I don't want to be, yet quite easily could if I indulged. This is what occurs when straight society sees ex-addicts, especially those of us on methadone. They know how easy it is to become hooked, and they realize they have their own weaknesses when looking at one of us.
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THE GOOD NEWS IS. . . .THE BAD NEWS IS. . . .
by Craig L.
I was recently arrested and charged with speeding to elude arrest, failure to
stop for blue lights, and careless and reckless driving, which is not good news.
I got a $200.00 fine on each charge and 45 days in jail on each charge--suspended
sentence--24 months of probation, plus two weekends in jail, which was very BAD NEWS.
So what is the GOOD NEWS? It is this--I talked to my probation officer who set it up where I get dosed Saturday morning, go to jail at 8:30 a.m., then get out at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning--in time to get dosed before the clinic closes at 9:30; I was glad to hear that. I would rather do one day at a time for four weekends than miss 2 days of my methadone. So that is the one good thing that came of this; I will start this weekend.
I would like to add that it was all a bunch of bull anyway. The city cop got on the stand and lied his ass off. He said I was running cars off the road and speeding off to escape arrest, which are all lies. He told my lawyer that he was going for the hatchet. The cop was mad; he said that I copped drugs and threw them out the window. They stopped in the middle of the road, turned the blue lights off and got out of the car to look for them to say he could not recover the drugs--that's because there were none to recover. So, he was angry that he could not get me on a felony charge.
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Are you Going on a vacation outside the country?
If so, there is help for you--a new global travel guide for methadone patients from Ralf Gerlach. It is available on the internet at the following URL:
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by Odus Green
Recently there have been many negative (and sometimes malicious) articles, in
newspapers about the drug Methadone. These articles refer to morality as the basis
for their vicious and spiteful statements. That is to say, the fact that some people
use drugs somehow makes them less moral than those that don't? I have read the Bible
a few times in my life, and nowhere does it say that drug taking in and of itself
makes one immoral or less deserving of salvation than the man who cheats on his wife,
his taxes, and his business associates. The one I found most offensive was an article
in which the author states, "All people who are on drugs are pathological liars."
This was in an editorial regarding the opening of a methadone clinic in his hometown.
He asserts methadone patients are simply sanctioned drug users, therefore also "pathological
liars." As if his wife, who probably pops a Prozac tablet every morning before
facing the day, isn't also a "drug user". The two drugs give about the
same "rush", which is to say none at all. Or his Mom who uses a high-blood
pressure medicine isn't a "drug user?" The two drugs give about the same
rush, which is to say (still) "none at all." Why is methadone so much
different than the other two drugs. All are taken daily. All are required to keep
the user on an even keel psychologically and physically. Why is one immoral and
the others moral? What, exactly, are the criteria for a drug to be moral?
Of course, the author probably doesn't know anyone on methadone. Well, at least anyone who would confess it to a judgmental, un-educated person such as himself. Had he had the wherewithal to actually familiarize himself with the drug and those who use it, he would have found that patients who use methadone are as diverse as those using any other drug. Are all people who use insulin automatically of one personality and thought process? I think not. Just like insulin patients, methadone patients are as diverse a group as you're likely to encounter anywhere. From the President of the local PTA to the lady who often sits with national and international scientists and policy makers to discuss decisions that will affect the populations of entire nations. From the lawyer in Arizona to the successful author in England. Also, there is the guy who never had anything. He still doesn't. He works hard and stays off drugs with pure willpower. He has purchased an expensive motorcycle with his savings. He is proud of his sobriety. With the help of methadone, he has been free of illicit opiates for four years now. Is he immoral because this news reporter says so? It doesn't apply to methadone patients because they used to use illicit drugs?
Of course, all are not success stories. Out of hundreds of thousands on methadone, there are surely some dishonest and less than upstanding people. In any group of people that large, you will find those who are less than desirable. Obviously, this doesn't mean that the entire population of any large group is inherently evil.
Were we to judge the acts of the methadone patient against the "journalist" who wrote this inflammatory article, whose sin is worse? He is spreading falsehoods, and he knows it. He is fostering an atmosphere of intolerance and hate toward an entire group. Anyone knows that a group this large will have good and bad. Can he judge the act of taking drugs itself, anyway? Supposing he could--is not methadone far superior to using illicit drugs? Just as Prozac is a more attractive alternative than being depressed and dysfunctional constantly.
In this article, he has flaunted his ignorance of methadone treatment. He probably thinks patients get some kind of "high" from their daily medicine (they don't). The evil part is, many of the readership will base their opinions about methadone treatment on this one statement they have read. It would be just as easy to infer that all Catholic priests are child molesters. It's the same logic used to paint all methadone patients as pathological liars. It obviously is flawed logic from the outset, but Mr. and Ms. Reader won't see it that way. It must be true; it's in the paper!
In any case, such articles written by those who are biased against methadone strictly out of ignorance, are detrimental to those of us who are not what "these people" make us out to be. I know many pathological liars, and very few of them are on methadone. Indeed, I can think of only one! Why do some feel they have the right to tell us what is moral? If they think it is immoral to take drugs, how can they moralize about any attempt to cease illicit drugs? How can it be immoral to not want to use illicit drugs and take methadone to maintain a balance.
Whether the chemical change which appears in opiate addicts is caused by the drug use, or was the cause of the drug use really doesn't matter. What matters is, methadone sets the chemical balance in the brain right. What could possibly be immoral about that? What makes the reporter qualified to say it is immoral? It is this attitude we have been fighting since the beginning.
We, as methadone patients, are obliged to be twice as good as others. If we make any mistakes, it must surely be caused by the medicine, it can't be human imperfection. Where others are able to be tired, we are automatically "nodding." These are stereotypes, just as surely as "blacks are more violent than whites" is a stereotype which enjoys much popularity among this same group of people. I am sure if the reporter could get away with writing that, he would. It makes people like him feel better to think they are "morally superior" to any group. Methadone patients are easy, because we are not in a position to fight back. We would lose our jobs--the respect of neighbors and family. It is indeed a stigma which can be insurmountable when dealing with those educated with articles such as these recent ones. Why can't anyone actually research the subject and write a positive, realistic article about methadone treatment? Until this happens, we are destined to be scorned by society.
This will entail access to mass communication organizations. There are simply too few of us to cause a groundswell of support. To commence a grass roots campaign, one must have a field of grass. We are simply a tiny yard of grass. The truth must be told if we are to be released from these ridiculous stereotypes, which permeate the middle-class population of this country. We need to respond to such outlandish articles as are being written about us with the facts. Somehow, we must get news organizations to recognize the truth about methadone patients. For the most part, we are simply regular people who are trying to do our best. We are all the things I mentioned above, and we have to make the rest of the people realize this.
As I said, we must be twice as good as those not on methadone. It isn't fair, but it is reality. We must make it known we have excelled because of methadone. We must make it known that we count lawyers and doctors among our ranks. These professionals have an extra responsibility to speak up and tell the truth. The public doesn't see the successful patients, just the criminal ones. Successful patients need to not melt into the background. We must start small and work our way up. If only we could organize into a cohesive group, but we are very few separated by many miles. So, it is up to us as concerned patients to try to organize even on a small scale. Have meetings at the clinic, if they will let you. Have the meeting in someone's home if not. Try to reach any media outlet you have access to. Tell those around you, "Hey, did you know I was on methadone?" Make sure they respect and like you first, and still you might lose a friend or two. Obviously, these aren't true friends anyway. And always do your best. Be twice as good as anyone else. Many of us are already twice as smart! It's these small things in which we can all engage that will eventually free us. Just think, a group of patients doing community service projects would really flip them out, wouldn't it?
It is up to us as individuals to be doubly responsible. We are obliged, as patients, to maintain our cool in the face of outrageous accusations and assumptions by clinic staff. This is good training for such people as the authors of the recent articles. In time, even they will be forced to see that there exists many more responsible, honest patients than there are dishonest ones. Just as there are many more responsible, knowledgeable reporters than these few ignorant, judgmental ones who are simply trying to get people to hate and punish others who don't have the same morals [or body chemistry?] as they do.
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AT METHADONE CLINICS (Part II)
by Bao Dai
About six weeks ago Jorge, who had been my counselor for over a year, suddenly
disappeared. A few days after I discovered this fact totally by accident, I was
summoned in to see Loretta, my new counselor.
A few words about Jorge before he is laid to rest. He was a lousy counselor. He was a nice guy, but he never did anything, at least with respect to me, which remotely could be considered counseling. That was, however, fine by me, even though I know for a fact he falsified my chart (I did worry about what he was writing, but after having to convince him (well, actually, I had to get the Clinic Director and the State to convince him) that what I do for a living is really gainful employment, I really did not want to have to deal with him on anything like a professional level. He did not want to deal with me on that level either (or anyone else as far as I can tell), preferring to spend his days being friendly to every patient when he wasn't shut in his office writing fictitious entries to document fictitious counseling sessions.
Hmmmmm.... per chance that's why he "disappeared."
Now Loretta intends to force me to undergo fifty minutes of counseling a month as required by my State's Regulations. She seems nice, and I must admit this attitude of refraining from fraud is admirable, but she was hired without having any experience counseling people with substance abuse problems, let alone methadone patients, and the only training my clinic gave her before sticking her in Jorge's chair was some basic instruction on how to complete the plethora of forms which support the methadone bureaucracy. I think her educational training in counseling substance abusers consisted of, "Okay, they never tell the truth. Now we'll discuss abused children...."
Our first session was spent with her telling me "my urines looked pretty good" (a regular Sherlock Holmes at work here. If they looked any different, I would either still be using illicit drugs or selling my methadone, and I wouldn't be getting take homes, and I might need a counselor to try and figure out why they didn't look good).
Which brings me to my point. Like a smart patient, I acquired my state's regulations (all I had to do was leave a phone message, and they were sent gratis). I saw the Medical Director could exempt me from the mandatory 50 minutes of counseling. So I asked for the exemption. He asked me a few questions, was clearly sympathetic, and I think if I'd pushed him, I could have gotten the exemption.
But he said, "You see, problem is, we get paid for that [by the state]." The man wasn't proud of this but seemed to know I'd understand.
I pay the full charge for my treatment. It's $170 a month. Obviously, if they start exempting people from counseling, the price I pay (and everyone pays) may increase. That would decrease the availability of methadone to many who need it who do not qualify for state assistance.
Problem on this end is, I don't think I need counseling - or if I do, not the quality I would get from the counselors hired by my clinic (at least the ones of whom I'm aware). I know I have a tendency to abuse intoxicants, but I've stopped using them and have chosen to treat my problem with a combination of AA Meetings and methadone maintenance - both of which I feel have, so far anyway, kept me from returning to the world of drug abuse - or worse, alcoholism.
Like every methadone patient, I do need someone to act as a contact with the clinic - to do all the bureaucratic nonsense (and other things) required by the state. If, however, I need advice about some problem which is not bureaucratic in nature (which is what I think is the function of a "counselor" in this context), I certainly would not go to Loretta. And I feel awful sorry for anyone who must. The truth is that a lot of patients, especially those who continue to have a problem with substance abuse or live with active addicts or abusive spouses, need and/or want counselors and cannot find or afford appropriate resources outside the clinic. Some opiate addicts suffer from problems of a psychological nature and became addicted through self - medication. I can see the purpose in evaluating each patient to see if he or she wants or needs counseling, but mandatory counseling is a waste of resources. It is more of the "one size fits all" theory of treatment generally employed with 21 Day Detoxes, and most of us know that track record personally.
Now I don't know what the state pays for me to sit, bored out of my mind as Loretta tries to think of some way in which I can stop taking the drugs I'm not taking anyway, and I don't know what they pay Loretta, but I suspect that if the state would not pay per service, but subsidize per patient, things would be better for all patients and for society.
Under such a scheme, clinics could afford to hire people (maybe Loretta some day) who are actually qualified to help other people in need of counseling, and then it could determine which patients (by state standards, if the government desires) need (or just want) counseling, and to what degree, and actually provide that service properly.
I imagine the jobs of counselors at methadone clinics would be a lot more fulfilling as well ... unfortunately, I don't think the one's at mine would be qualified to know whether that would be the case, and it tends to be them who have the influence with the methadone bureaucracy (it certainly isn't the patient).
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1928 - It is estimated that in Germany one out of every hundred physicians
is a morphine addict, consuming 0.1 grams of the alkaloid or more per day (Eric Hesse,
Narcotics and Drug Addiction, p. 41).
1930 - The Federal Bureau of Narcotics is formed. Many of its agents, including its first commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger, are former prohibition agents.
1938 - Since the enactment of the Harrison Act in 1914, 25,000 physicians have been arraigned on narcotics charges, and 3,000 have served penitentiary sentences (Lawrence Kolb, Drug Addiction, p. 146).
1943 - Colonel J.M. Phalen, editor of the "military Surgeon", declares in an editorial entitled, "The Marijuana Bugaboo": "The smoking of the leaves, flowers, and seeds of Cannabis sativa is no more harmful than the smoking of tobacco. . . .It is hoped that no witch hunt will be instituted in the military service over a problem that does not exist" (Lindesmith, The Addict and the Law, p. 234).
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