Narconon Counselor Shares Testimony about Methadone
Norwich Bulletin, Norwich, Connecticut
Friday, January 13, 1978
Norwich Methadone Center Planned Despite Area Agencies’ Opposition
NORWICH - Outraged by plans to open a methadone distribution center in Norwich within a month, three area agencies voiced vehement protests during a Thursday hearing.
Among the strongest testimony was that of John Watts, a counselor for Narconon, a New London based center for non-methadone drug treatment.
“Methadone is ten times worse than heroin. I know. I was on heroin for about seven years,” he asserted.
A “major respiratory depressant,” methadone is a highly addictive drug first created in the labs of Nazi Germany. Until the early 1970s, it was used in some cough medicines. Taken in large enough doses, it can prove fatal.
“If I had not been on methadone myself for 18 months, I could sit here and listen to you and be totally convinced with your program. But, I tell you, I was totally messed up from methadone,” Watts testified.
UNCONVICED - John Watts, Narconon counselor, remained “unconvinced” a Norwich methadone center would help opiate drug addicts in the area. (Bulletin Photo by Thayer)
Despite, these protests, however, plans are continuing to open the methadone distribution center at 110 Broadway in Norwich within a month.
The methadone treatment and therapy program is designed to help opiate addicts overcome heroin addictions. A legal synthetic drug, methadone is dispensed from accredited clinics, thus freeing the addict from the lifestyle of criminal activity often used to maintain a habit.
“The most important aspect of this program is it frees the individual from this type of lifestyle and allows him to focus attention on the rehabilitative aspects of our program,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cornfield, physician in charge of the Blue Hills Hospital methadone program which will serve as the parent organization of the Norwich center.
According to statistics cited by representatives of the methadone program, there are “over 200” opiate users in the Norwich-New London area. At present, people from this area must travel to the Blue Hills facility in Hartford for daily methadone treatments.
The Norwich center would provide a near-by center for distribution of the drug, and persons undergoing the treatment would have to travel to Hartford only once or twice a week for therapy sessions.
The Norwich satellite branch would accommodate an estimated 30 persons.
Monitored by state and federal agencies, the Norwich center would be open five days a week from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with distribution occurring between 6:15 and 8:15 a.m. and 12 to 12:45 p.m.
According to Sandra Primrose, head nurse of the Blue Hills Methadone Program, methadone treatment is open only to those persons with a two-year verified addiction history. In addition, the person must have tried other drug-free treatment programs.
Persons making use of the Norwich branch must also be “highly stabilized individuals,” added John E. McMullen, chief community consultant of the Alcohol and Drug Program Department of the Department of Mental Health.
To qualify as being “highly stabilized,” a person must have been involved in the Blue Hills program for “at least a month” and must show signs of “progress,” Assistant Program Director Frank Dentarmaro confirmed.
Since the Norwich center will be open only five days a week, according to current projections, some provisions will be made for “take-home medication” for some of the patients. The remainder would drive to Hartford on weekends.
Although recognizing the “illegal methadone on the streets comes from the programs,” proponents of the Norwich center said they foresee no major problems with their plans for “take-home” medication.
“Before a person will be allowed to have take-home medication for one day, he or she must have been in the program for three months,” Ms. Primrose said.
“All of his urine samples must have been ‘clean’ of any drug abuses. In addition, he would have had to attend his assigned therapy sessions, and he would have to be either employed, seeking employment, or involved in homemaking,” she said.
Violence, continued drug abuse, or a general failure to adhere to program rules or attend sessions would result in “rapid detoxification,” according to Ms. Primrose.
Protesting “the quality of heroin on the street today is not good enough to turn people into hard core addicts,” Watts declared he was “puzzled” why methadone is being used.
“Most people are not on heroin, and most don’t need methadone,” he said.
Responding to statements from the representatives describing the happy, productive lives people can lead while on the Blue Hills program, Watts grew sober. “At what price is that happiness?” he demanded.
Dr. Cornfield answered she “cannot be responsible for the bad experiences a person has had with other methadone programs.” She said she can speak only for her own program.
THERAPUTIC PROGRAM - Contending their program has been a “therapeutic program from the word go,” four proponents of the Norwich methadone distribution center presented their proposals to the public Thursday night during a hearing at Mohegan Community College.
“You’re talking about the failures,” she said. “What about the success?”
Other agencies protesting the center included the Southeast Council on Area Drug Dependency (SCADD) and the Spanish-American Cultural Organization (SACO).
William Hill, supervisor of two SCADD half-way houses, questioned who would be responsible for driving these people to and from the center. Told the individual himself must provide transportation, he protested, “We will have people coming into town under the influence of methadone then.”
And although Watts and others testified “methadone can make you high,” program representatives countered, “not under our supervision.”
“When we first began our program in the ‘60s, we had lots of problems,” said Dr. Cornfield. “But today methadone has become a household word. Lately, much of the copy about it has been adverse; but, be that as it may, it is a very, very valuable drug in treating persons with addiction problems.”
“But this is just creating another sort of addiction,” Hill observed.
And SACO representatives asserted, “We don’t want it. We’re very worried.”
Nonetheless, program proponents continued to point to the “dearth of services” of this kind in the Norwich area. “We feel this is the least we can do,” Dentarmaro said.