Concerns About Methadone Program Voiced During Discussion
January 13 1978
NORWICH - Concerns about the use of methadone in treating drug addiction were much in evidence during a discussion Thursday at Mohegan Community College.
The discussion was conducted to air the state's plans to operate a methadone dispensary at 110 Broadway, starting within a month.
The dispensary, which will serve up to 30 persons from the Norwich-New London area, is intended as a convenience for addicts who are already participating in methadone maintenance programs but who now have to make daily trips to Hartford or New Haven for their medication.
One of several strict criteria for eligibility in the Norwich program is that participants continue to travel to the out-of-town parent clinics for non-drug therapy such as counseling, said John McMullen, a consultant with the Alcohol and Drug Dependence Division of the state Department of Mental Health.
Another criterion is that participants must be employed, in school or in some other way "socially stabilized," he said.
The criticisms, however, were not aimed at the controls but at the program itself. Several persons in the audience said they had been on methadone for treatment of heroin addiction and they claimed that the cure was worse than the sickness.
Said John Watts, a counselor with Narconon, an anti-drug program, who was once treated with methadone, "It's ten times worse than heroin ever was."
Another woman described the treatment as "a living hell."
Neither were treated under the program outlined by McNullen, which has been operating at the Blue Hills Hospital since 1969. The senior physician for that program, Dr. Elizabeth Cornfield, said most methadone patients there have no trouble carrying on normal lives. The Blue Hills operation will be the parent organization for the Norwich unit.
Worried about methadone
The head nurse of the program, Sandra Primrose, said it would not be one of the "huge give-away" programs which give methadone maintenance a bad name. Patients will take their medication in the presence of the dispensary staff and their urine will be monitored regularly for the presence of other drugs, illegal and legal, she said.
Several persons were worried that methadone would create simply another addiction. Among them were Barbara Troadec, executive director of the Spanish American Culture Organization in New, London, and Harry Hill of the Southeastern Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.
Dr. Cornfield agreed that methadone is a "Powerful, addictive narcotic" but she said it enables the addict to be treated and to function whereas addiction to other drugs like heroin prevent treatment.