When addiction treatment means decades on Methadone

Odell Jones describes himself as a “working addict.” For decades, he maintained a career in social work and politics, as well as a family — four children and a wife — while using and selling heroin.

”An individual would not know that I was a drug user, or a drug dealer, for that matter, unless I were to tell you,” he said.

The 68 year old is retired now, and he has been on Methadone for about 20 years, something he said his coworkers at various jobs never knew, even during the early days of his treatment when he had to go to clinics every day. When he moved to a new place — from Jersey City, New Jersey, to Topeka, Kansas, to Baltimore — he had to start over in a new Methadone program.

He’s also been to three different clinics in Baltimore. The first two “didn’t have the things that I needed,” he said. “I needed the counselor that knew what he was doing, the counselor that actually listened, a counselor that took part in my rehabilitation.”

He’s been a patient at Bon Secours’ New Hope Treatment Center in West Baltimore for roughly a decade.

Methadone works by blocking cravings for illicit opioids like heroin and making it harder to get high. For Jones, it fills the space that heroin left behind. Without it, he can’t function.

About four years ago, he went to Kansas to watch his granddaughter graduate from high school, and he forgot to bring his Methadone, he recalled.

“Buddy, that was the worst three days of my life,” he said. “I felt absolutely terrible. I was on a plane. I couldn’t sleep. My body was hurting.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers a year the minimum amount of time someone should be in a Methadone program.

But that’s not set in stone, according to Heather Young, the nurse practitioner at the clinic where Jones is a patient. She said there is no minimum or maximum amount of time a patient is supposed to be on Methadone.

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