I just read a news article about a proposed methadone clinic that is being met with community resistance, this time in Dade County, Georgia. The county is located in the northwestern tip of the state, and would provide treatment to people living in north Georgia, southern Tennessee, and northeastern Alabama.
Somewhat disturbing were several comments by readers of the article in which the proposed clinic was forecasted to be harmful to the community. One person wrote that clinics “do not help people”, and another writer stated that the clinic “would bring more unsavory characters into the county.”
A second article on the Dade County clinic, with an accompanying news video, showed an interview with a local store manager in a neighboring county. This store manager is located across the street from an existing methadone clinic. In the interview, the man said “Keep you eyes open and your ears open and watch out for people … because that (methadone) is some bad stuff.” The TV interviewer then asked the man had he observed any problems related to the clinic’s operation and he responded “I’ve not noticed any real bad things or anything happening around here.” He then goes on to say later in the interview “They’re (methadone clients) not causing any trouble.”
The TV interviewer for News Channel 9 also added that a number of local people she had interviewed for the piece (who did not want to appear on camera) confirmed that the clinic “had not had a negative impact on the area.”
This exemplifies the irrational fear & unjustified public condemnation of methadone that is often the norm in small communities. The reality is that the store owner referenced above had not seen anything troubling (per his own account), and the others interviewed said the clinic had brought no negative impact to the area. Think about that.
These community members, many of whom are obviously harboring unwarranted fears and suspicions, would most likely change their opinion of methadone clinics & methadone clients if they could simply meet them. The condemnation of those we do not know is an age-old problem, as are hate, harsh judgment, and fear of the unknown.
Discrimination is something that Americans have faced before. Discrimination against addicted people seeking help is sort of odd logic. Most people seem to believe that addiction is something far away and removed from their communities and their lives. But it isn’t.
Importantly, methadone maintenance blocks the effects of other opiates, stops withdrawal sickness, helps addicted people feel better emotionally, and allows them to go to work, raise their families, pay their mortgage, and become productive again. That clinic across the street is not a drug haven. It is a place where people, with good intentions and genuine hope, begin to reclaim their lives. They’re willing to step onto a new path leading to a drug free life. Is this really so terrible?