Looking into Brantford’s methadone clinics

Brantford currently has four clinics with a possibility of another one in the near future.

By Christina Manocchio and Stephanie Taylor

There are now five methadone clinics in Brantford and talks of building one on Six Nations. Niagara Falls, which is roughly the same size as Brantford, only has two methadone clinics. This has local residents wondering about the increase and what goes on inside the clinics.

“Five or six years ago, we saw a significant rise of crystal meth in London,” said Dr. David Langlois, who works at the Victoria Park Clinic on Darling Street. “The way I’ve seen it, and the way other doctors have seen it, it seems to have climbed its way up the 401.”

Crystal meth can cause life-long mental health issues after just one use, but it is cheaper than many other street drugs. Crystal meth costs $60 for one-third of a gram, or $10 for a hit. Crack cocaine, in 2009 , cost between $80 and $100 for a gram. A rock, which weighs about a tenth of a gram, cost $20.

“It’s a brutal drug but it’s very cheap,” said Jeff Spence, vice-president of community outreach and development at Victoria Park. “From my understanding, it has a long high and it is inexpensive. So, instead of using prescription drugs or whatever it is, that’s one of the reasons people would go to crystal meth.”

As with many street drugs, the rise of crystal meth can be linked to crime as some users will go to great lengths to feed their habit. A crystal meth habit can cost a user up to $50,000 a year.

“With any kind of drug use, it requires money,” said Dr. Jatinder Dhillon of the Colborne Street Clinic. “Either you have money, from somewhere, or you’re going to have to get it from somewhere. Unfortunately, the more drugs you use the more money you’re going to need and the less work you can do.”

Local methadone clinic doctors said they could not disclose the number of patients they’ve seen due to confidentiality. But they said they are seeing more crystal meth use among the patients they test.

The time it takes to complete a recovery program at a methadone clinic depends on more than just patients stopping their drug use. That is is a major step, but it is the rebuilding of one’s life that is more challenging. On average, patients graduate from the program after two or three years.

“It is a long-term strategy,” said Spence. “The idea is to get people on methadone, stabilize them, so they’re not experiencing highs and lows. Then, they can start to wean themselves off of other drugs which we test for regularly.”

A dose of methadone, each one tailored to the patient, is mixed with Tang and must be swallowed in front of the pharmacist. If patients are going out of town or aren’t able to make it into the clinic, they are allowed a limit of six carry-outs.

After patients are stabilized, the next step is to help deal with their life issues.

“It’s about changing your lifestyle,” said Langlois. “So psychologically, you don’t need to use, you don’t want to use and you’re actively trying to improve your life, your financial situation, your family situation, your work situation and your friends.”

While doctors in methadone clinics counsel patients throughout the program as much as they can, the Victoria Park clinic will be adding addiction counsellors to its facility in a partnership with St. Leonard’s.

The struggles of running a methadone clinic are more than just the turnover of patients and the relapses that can often happen.

“I think there’s, to start with, the societal norms. Most people are not as accepting of methadone clinics as they are regular medical clinics,” said Dhillon. “Next thing is, people who do need help are also biased by that same thing and don’t want to come into a methadone clinic because they don’t want to be labelled as someone who is using drugs.”

Spence said the value of methadone clinics goes beyond individual patients. “There are studies that link stable methadone clinics and reduced crime rates,” he said.