Pubdate: Sat, 05 Aug 2000
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2000, Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Jeff Tuttle


BANGOR -- The nation's drug czar Friday weighed in on a proposed
methadone clinic for the city, taking the state's top federal
prosecutor to task for statements that "contradict the expert opinions
of the country's top public health and public safety officials."

Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Barry R. McCaffrey
officially supported the controversial clinic, which has divided the
city of 35,000 in recent months.

"If we don't like crime, paying a fortune to lock up chronic drug
users, and the terrible health consequences of heroin addiction, then
we should support methadone maintenance, therapeutic communities and
other proven treatment modalities," McCaffrey said in a prepared
statement issued by his Washington, D.C., office. "Bangor, Maine, and
the entire nation would be better off with less chronic heroin addiction."

Acadia Hospital, a Bangor-based treatment center for mental illness
and chemical dependency, applied in February for a license to operate
a methadone clinic. The application was requested by the state's
Office of Substance Abuse, which has cited the area's growing opiate
addiction problem.

Methadone is a synthetic pain reliever used to wean addicts from
heroin, painkillers and other opiates. It is addictive but does not
produce a high, according to state drug officials, who say the drug
allows addicts to live a normal life.

The proposal has sparked a heated debate in the community, with
opponents questioning the treatment's effectiveness and the clinic's
potential to draw addicts from around the state. Acadia Hospital
estimates up to 150 addicts will be served by the clinic.

In an Aug. 3 letter to U.S. Attorney Jay McCloskey, federal drug
control policy officials dispute, point by point, many claims made by
the prosecutor in his vocal opposition of the Bangor clinic.

Reached on Friday afternoon, McCloskey stood by his conclusions, many
of which he said are based on the same reports cited by officials in
the nation's capital.

Specifically, the Aug. 3 letter refutes McCloskey's assertions that
methadone clinics are magnets for crime and cause drug use to
increase, depicting the proposed clinic as a "farmers' market for drugs."

The letter cites studies that methadone treatment reduced heroin use
by 70 percent and criminal activity by 57 percent while increasing
full-time employment by 24 percent. McCaffrey's office also cites the
opinion of Winslow police Chief Michael Heavener, who has associated
no increase of crime with the methadone clinic in that central Maine

McCloskey maintained Friday that those statistics are unreliable, as
they are provided by opiate addicts themselves. The prosecutor also
challenged the comparison to Winslow, and instead cited a rise in
crime in the area of a methadone clinic in South Portland. Police in
that city are not specifically able to link the increase in crime to
the clinic.

"I think people have a lot of common sense, and they know the
likelihood of crime will increase with more addicts moving to Bangor,"
McCloskey said Friday.

The prosecutor has maintained that a methadone treatment center is not
yet needed in the city, which has a relatively recent drug problem. He
has called upon state officials to postpone the clinic's arrival and
give law enforcement and education efforts a chance to drive heroin
out of the area.

But McCaffrey's office says heroin is much more entrenched in Bangor
than McCloskey lets on.

Instead of the 12 months to 18 months cited by the prosecutor,
McCaffrey's office contends the problem dates back to 1995. Since that
time, Bangor has seen a fourfold increase in heroin and opiate use,
according to those statistics.

The letter also disputes McCloskey's characterization of methadone
treatment as unreliable, citing the drug's 30-year history and
documented benefits for addicts.

McCloskey on Friday said he favored waiting for less addictive drugs
such as Buprenorphine to come on the market before creating a new
population of methadone addicts in the city. Buprenorphine has not yet
been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but McCloskey said
Friday that federal officals have suggested that the drug is expected
to gain FDA approval by the end of the year.

The Bangor City Council on Monday will consider forming a committee
with Acadia Hospital to review the area's drug problem and the
proposed clinic. The council also expects to hold another public forum
on the issue. No date for the third forum has been set.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens