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Take-Home Methadone Hits the Streets

Police say take-home doses of methadone from understaffed clinics are getting sold illegally.

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More methadone is being given "to-go".
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By McCarton Ackerman

02/08/13

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Take-home doses of liquid methadone from treatment clinics often get sold illegally on the streets, Bloomberg reports. Methadone has been used for decades to help addicts abate withdrawal symptoms as they quit heroin or other opiates. Law-enforcement officials in Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have reported increasing instances of methadone surfacing in criminal cases; these "diverted doses" are linked to CRC Health Corp, which operates 57 clinics in 15 states. Due to decreased profits and chronic understaffing, CRC clinics have reportedly been distributing more methadone via "take home" packages, instead of administering the doses directly on site. “Clearly the company is saving money if they’re distributing multiple take-home doses at one time,” says West Virginia Delegate Don Perdue. “They don’t have to have as many staff handing out the merchandise.” Records show CRC’s clinics haven’t met staffing standards in more than 50 instances; and in Huntington, W.V., a November 2010 inspection found that nine out of 10 patients hadn’t met with a doctor in more than a year. Many caseworkers report overwhelmingly high caseloads that prevent them from adequately supervising clients.

When abused, or taken with other illicit drugs, methadone can be lethal; and abuse of take-home doses is reportedly linked to an increase in crime. In Dearborn County, Indiana, officials are planning a $10 million expansion to the local jail, needed partly because of crimes tied to CRC’s clinic in Lawrenceburg. “We’ve had people come down to the methadone clinic and rob a bank because they need money to pay for methadone,” says prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard. “We’ve had people at the McDonald’s shooting up. Whether it’s dealing or someone giving take-homes to a friend, it’s been a huge problem.” Philip Herschman, CRC’s chief clinical officer, has denied accusations that his clinics are distributing methadone without supervision. He said that CRC follows “specific and rigid” state and federal rules in deciding which patients get carryout doses, and those doses are “suspended immediately if the patient tests positive for any illicit substance.”

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