Methadone clinics giving hope to recovering opioid addicts

February 26, 2018 06:34 PM

Methadone treatment is the backbone of addiction treatment for thousands. It acts on the same receptors in the brain as opioids. Because of that, methadone causes dependency, even leading to death if abused. 

Some argue that addicts are merely swapping one addiction for another. However, for many who are trying to lead a drug-free life, methadone treatment is the key step in that recovery. 


Inside a waiting room NewsChannel 13's Benita Zahn visited, there's a lot of hope. Everyone there is recovering from opioid addiction. The hope is the methadone treatment they come for -- most on a daily basis, will eventually lead to a drug free life. 

"Methadone is just one pathway to recovery," explained Mickey Jiminez, the regional director of the Capital District Camino Nuevo, a methadone treatment clinic in Albany. 

"Those are the folks that we have to really showcase, so that folks can see, 'Wow, there are people that actually look like you and I. I didn't know that they were on methadone. I didn't know that they had a problem with some form of addiction,'" she pointed out.

Six-hundred people a day come through a methadone clinic on Central Avenue in Albany. It is one of four methadone clinics in the Capital Region. All provide an array of services along with the methadone.

"Dan" and "Jane" -- not their real names -- are in recovery. Both became addicted to prescribed pain medication -- one during cancer treatment, the other for an ongoing pain condition. They knew they were in trouble when the legal drugs were cut off, but their need for the opioids continued. 

"It's not just the methadone that got me to become clean. It's my counselor. It's the support I got along the way," said Dan.

"Your brain is forever changed," warned Jane.

Despite having jobs, children, a home, they both succumbed to something they never envisioned – heroin. Cheap and easy to get, it became their drug of choice. 

"I mean we had tried abstinence. We tried NA we tried AA. Then we would always go home from an AA meeting to home doing okay. An hour later, we were bouncing off the walls," recalled Dan.

The emotional pain of having Social Services take away their children was the last straw. That's when they applied for acceptance into the methadone clinic in Albany. That was a year ago and they're doing well.

"So when we got on the methadone program, we quit instantly," explained Dan.

"It takes the cravings away," pointed out Jane.

She quit instantly. It took Dan a few months to reach a therapeutic dose. 

Because methadone is also addictive and can be deadly if abused, it has come under criticism and some remain on methadone treatment for decades. However, Jimenez is clear, it's a critical tool for many who might otherwise never kick their habit.

"Folks are wanting to change their lives and we want to get them to feel that you know what, there's different pathways to recovery and certainly, medication assisted treatment is one of them," explained Jimenez.

Initially, addicts come every day for their methadone -- and it's a tightly controlled procedure from sign-in to dosage.

If they progress in treatment -- and with the blessings of the doctor at the center, they'll get a bottle of methadone for a few at home doses.

That's allowing Dan and Jane to rebuild their lives. She's working again and they're about to get their children back. 
Jane wants people to understand how the stigma of drug abuse keeps many from treatment.

"I was that person. I think you probably were too," surmised Jane. "Before I was an addict myself, I felt like, 'Come on, grow, up, you know, get over it.'"

When you can't, says Jane, you fear telling your employer, your family. So along with Jimenez, they hope by telling their story, they can chip away at the stigma of drug abuse, making it easier for other addicts to walk through the door for treatment. 

"One day, I see folks coming in the door and welcoming them just like any other chronic problem that someone wants help," noted Jiminez.

Methadone has been available in the U.S. since the mid 1960s.

In 2002 Suboxone, another treatment along the lines of methadone, was approved by the FDA. It produces weaker euphoric effects than methadone and has a relatively low risk of overdose, making it another tool to help those working their way to a drug-free life.


Benita Zahn

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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