Charleston methadone clinic works to ease the pain of heroin, opioid addiction


The statistics are staggering in the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on substance abuse in the country. The report, a first of its kind, states the number of people with substance addictions is more than the sum of all people with cancer.

There are many stories of the road to addition, recovery and in some cases death. This week, a man that wishes to remain anonymous due to how his career could be impacted, told his story.

"My mom died when I was young. I was in the 10th grade, and I started using drugs heavily then," he said.

His story while personal, is like that of many people in this country facing addiction.

Dr. John Emmel works at the Charleston Center in downtown Charleston, and he says there are 20 million people misusing opioid drugs and we have people dying in unprecedented numbers from overdoses.

The report from the surgeon general states an American dies every 19 minutes from opioid or heroin overdose.

RELATED: In son's name, Mount Pleasant mom vows to help others fight back from heroin addiction

"Only one in 10 people are actually getting treatment. That's something that we have to change," Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General said.

But treatment centers are scarce. The Charleston Center is the only public treatment facility in the state that can prescribe methadone.

Methadone reduces withdrawal symptoms without causing that "high" associated with drug addiction.

"Medications can help stabilize the brain chemistry that has become markedly abnormal due to the access use of drugs,” Dr. Emmel said.

A heroin addict for nearly 20 years, the man we spoke to said he spent seven of those years in prison.

"Ever since I’ve been on the methadone, I’ve gotten my life back. I do all the things I want to do in life now. I function as a normal human being now."

It will save Americans money.

"Substance abuse disorders cost us over $442 billion a year. ...That cost comes in the form of health care costs lost or workplace productivity as well as criminal justice system costs,” Murthy said.

Methadone treatment costs $14 a day. Users say you can't put a price on their quality of life now.

Caitlin Kratz, the program administrator said, “As we're able to get them on a stable dose of medication, we're able to watch them make significant changes. They're able to find employment and keep it. They're seeing improvements in their relationships.”

The Charleston Center says methadone alone doesn't treat addiction, but combined with counseling and outpatient programs they've seen successful outcomes.

"If I was talking to somebody now and trying to get them to seek help, I would tell them just seek treatment somewhere and give it a try because it can change your life," our recovering addict said.

For help you can call the Charleston Center at 843-722-0100 or this hotline: 843-958-3300.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off