Methadone, long used to treat heroin addiction, is now becoming a popular tool in the fight against prescription drug abuse in Florida. A state review last year concluded that more methadone clinics and satellite offices will be needed to deal with the growing number of patients addicted to prescription drugs.
The News-Press reports that counselors and administrators at Operation PAR (Parental Awareness and Responsibility) in North Fort Myers, FL, a methadone-replacement treatment center, estimate that 85 percent of patients today are addicted to painkillers. Eileen Ball, Program Director at PAR’s clinic in Lee County, told the newspaper, “Every time they close down a ‘pill mill,’ the clinic traffic goes up.”
The article notes that a person using methadone becomes dependent on it, but it can help a person to stop using illicit drugs without suffering from withdrawal sickness. Treatment usually runs $84 to $140 a week, depending on the dose. Medicaid covers the cost.
Methadone treatment has drawbacks, the article states. A person receiving methadone needs to make daily trips to a clinic, which are often out of the way. There are also a growing number of babies being born dependent on methadone. An earlier investigation by the newspaper found that the number of drug-dependent newborns, many with mothers who were using methadone, rose 657 percent between 2005 and 2009 in Lee County. Statewide, the number of drug-dependent newborns almost tripled.
Government estimates indicate that the average duration of methadone treatment is seven years, the newspaper reports. Gary Wenner, an administrator at Operation PAR, told the newspaper that 30 percent of his clinic’s patients stay on it for life.