The opening of Lodi's first methadone clinic has ignited a passionate debate over a controversial drug. Many hail methadone as a blessing that allows addicts to regain a normal life. Critics say the clinic is too close to a middle school. And they contend that the growing availability of methadone only deepens America's dangerous and growing addiction to narcotics.
Methadone: Miracle or menace?
Healthy Connections, the first methadone clinic in Lodi, recently opened on the corner of Ham Lane and Vine Street. It brought with it a debate over methadone’s merits in treating drug addiction.
- Dr. Ernest Vasti at a glance
Background and education: Vasti grew up in Stockton. He graduated from University of the Pacific and then the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1983. He completed his family medicine residency at San Joaquin General Hospital in 1986. He is also board certified in addiction medicine.
How did he get involved with methadone clinics? He started working at the San Joaquin County methadone detox unit at the hospital while also operating a small family practice.
Vasti opened his first Healthy Connections clinic in 2004 across from St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton. When the county closed the clinic in French Camp, he then opened the 5th Street Medical Clinic in July 2005 to provide service to south Stockton.
"We did this because many patients resided in that neighborhood and the facility was a well recognized community clinic," he said.
Other activities: Vasti teaches classes at University of California, Davis on substance abuse and private care. He has medical residents rotate through his clinics to work with patients receiving methadone, and gives lectures in Stockton, Modesto and Merced.
He is currently completing his Master of Public Health degree at University of California, Los Angeles. His master's project is to complete a school-based health clinic at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton.
Clinic information: Healthy Connections in Lodi is located at 1235 W. Vine St. Business hours are 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, and there are dispensing hours on the weekend from 7 to 9 a.m. For more information, call the Lodi clinic at 209-339-7410 or the 5th Street Medical Clinic in Stockton at 209-463-0870.
- Methadone at a glance
Where was it created?
Methadone is a synthetic opiate researchers created in Nazi Germany because of wartime shortages of morphine. It is made in a laboratory and is not derived from opium poppies. The first methadone clinic was opened in Lexington, Ky. in 1964.
When did the treatment become widespread?
Methadone became widely available in clinics after Vietnam War veterans began to return home addicted to opiates. President Richard Nixon led the establishment of a system to treat the veterans.
How many methadone clinics are there in the United States?
There are 1,300 clinics in the United States, which is an increase from 1,100 clinics in 2001, said J.R. Neuberger, who is on the board of directors for the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery.
How many patients are treated daily in the United States?
There are 300,000 patients in the United States who receive treatment daily, Neuberger said. Once a patient has been on methadone and clean from opiates for a certain amount of time, they can start receiving supplies to take at home, Neuberger said.
Cost of treatment
Each pill costs 80 cents to $1 for the pills, according to Neuberger. The cost of treatment in California ranges from $11 to $13 a day, according to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug programs.
What are other names for it? Street names include: dolls, dollies, fizzies.
Posted: Saturday, October 27, 2012 12:00 am
Updated: 8:55 am, Sat Oct 27, 2012.
When he found out there was a methadone clinic opening in Lodi, a 49-year-old man who says methadone helped him kick his decades-long heroin habit hoped he could start going there.
A local doctor openly questioned whether this clinic will actually help patients or if it is solely focused on making a profit.
Saturday, October 27, 2012 12:00 am.
Updated: 8:55 am.