Letters: A Moral Stance, Methadone Madness

CC Summer 1995: Letters: A Moral Stance, Methadone Madness

To the Editor:

Regarding your summary of the
Chief Coroner’s Report on Drug
Overdose Deaths in BC

in your last issue. Although the Coroner’s Report does not
try to reinforce the idea of a criminal solution to “the drug problem”, it
still sees drug use as a problem to be solved. Because of this, the report
misses many good opportunities to take a completely unbiased look into the

A Moral Stance

For instance, the notion that all drug use is wrong is debatable, and at
best a moral stance. Many people claim a great deal of good can come from
the responsible use of drugs. I don’t believe that this view was given
enough weight because of this intrinsic fault in the Coroner’s Report.

There is no proof that drug use or even addiction is necessarily a negative
aspect of a person’s life. There is proof that the negative social reaction
to drug use and drug users is the cause of most problems associated with
illegal drugs.

In the Executive Summary to the Coroner’s Report, the Chief Coroner refers
to the addicted person as the “primary carrier”, as if they are carrying a
disease. This kind of attitude leaves the door wide open for abuses against
this minority “for the protection of society”.

The Chief Coroner’s Report does not even attempt to draw a line between the
recreational user, the addict, and the drug abuser. The philosophy of the
report is that all drug use is bad, and that use, addiction, and abuse are
simply different stages of the same disease.

Portraying the addict as a morally weak victim of a disease perpetuates the
myth that drugs are something that some poor, misguided people need to be
protected from or cajoled out of taking. This kind of thinking led to the
1978 attempt by the BC government to jail people in the Brandon Lake
“treatment centre” for the “crime” of being a known drug user.

Methadone Madness

One can also see the results of treating drug users as weak and dependent,
even in a medical model. Just take a look at the BC methadone program and
there it is. It’s one of the great shames of this report that methadone
patients were not seen as reasoning adults and encouraged to speak out and
advocate for themselves.

The chapter on methadone was actually one of the most disappointing aspects
of the Coroner’s Report. Basically, it tows the line that the
B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons tows: that they are the only
ones that have the expertise and proximity to “deal” with the program and
eliminate the many problems they claim exist. Problems that could be fixed
much more easily if the entire responsibility for the Methadone Program was
in Provincial hands, as are most medical decisions.

Yet how much red tape is the B.C. government and the College of Physicians
and Surgeons going to replace with its own hoops and red tape?

Don’t forget these are the same people that wrote the BC Methadone
Guidelines, a more restrictive set of guidelines than even the Federal
Guidelines on Methadone. These are also the people that make it difficult,
socially and bureaucratically, for doctors to get a license, and reward
them with a lower payment schedule for methadone users than for the rest of
their patients.

On page eleven of the Proposed Contract to be signed by both patient
and doctor, provided at the Methadone Seminar for doctors, it says that
methadone maintenance “is a privilege and not a right”. To my
knowledge this is the first time that a legitimate treatment for what is
considered a disease or an illness has been looked upon in this way.

There are many good reasons to think twice about the Coroner’s
recommendation to transfer all of the responsibility for methadone programs
to the provinces, even though it would save bureaucratic red tape. In a
very real sense we could be cutting off avenues of appeal that have saved
us and the program before.

The Status Quo

The Chief Coroner acknowledges that a great many people have a vested
interest in maintaining the status quo. This includes everyone from the
large scale importer to the police and politicians.Treating drug users like
responsible citizens would help a great deal more than trying to keep them
weak and dependent.

Melissa Eror
Association for Methadone Patients

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