Pubdate: Fri, 17 Apr 2009
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 The Calgary Sun
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Expecting Sister Morphine and Keith Richards circa 1971, I found 
directional drilling technician Kent instead.

Kent -- who looks like the next guy in the lineup at the video store 
- -- had already downed his methadone in the dispensary at Second 
Chance Recovery (SCR), a place Calgarians think is swell as long as 
it's somewhere else.

It's an agency I've driven past countless times without knowing it's there.

"Without this place, I'd have lost my job, my family and maybe my own 
life," says Kent. "People are afraid of what they don't understand 
.. I've met people here who are oil company executives."

Like many of the clients I meet at SCR, Kent's problems stemmed from 
pain management that led them to legal opiates like the potently 
addictive Oxycontin.

It's 9 a.m. and the morning rush for the daily liberating dose of 
methadone is on, with people lined up three deep in the dispensary 
with its fluorescent brightness and gleaming white cabinetry.

Office-type plastic in-out trays hold clients' documentation 
paperclipped with their photos.

A restaurant-style fountain machine supplies the orange juice 
recovering addicts drink with the substitute opiate from a colourful 
paper cup. A liquid food supplement is also handed out by the 
mini-pharmacy that stocks Advil, Pepto-Bismol and Tums.

Pharmacist Steve Miller says he's previously worked at Safeway and 
Shoppers Drug Mart. "I had as many problems at the local Safeway -- 
people are very respectful because we're helping them," says Miller.

Sure enough, almost all politely offer a "thank you" on their way out.

Some of the those who show up are what many would consider "street 
scruffy" but most aren't.

A middle-aged woman gulps her medication, saying "I've got to get my 
dog a hair cut now."

An attractive blond woman in Flames attire does her dose and chats 
playoff hockey before darting out.

Single father Gord, 40, arrives with a wooden cane and talks about 
the numerous back and leg surgeries that led him to Oxycontin and now 

"Doctors haven't managed the problem of addiction -- they've left it 
behind," he says.

Restaurant waitress Blanche sits in front of the dispensary, 
stringing bead jewelry while other clients, including a taxi driver, 
file in. "I used to be sick every day shooting up ... this saved my 
life," she says, smiling.

John, 33, provides a classic tale of how a space dreaded by so many 
keeps them safe.

"Coming here, I can't get high any more -- I've been here and I 
haven't been in jail," says ponytailed John, who admits to committing 
a home invasion robbery to pay for his addiction.

Now he wants to go to chef school.

Past the dispensary in an office space painted in contemporary 
colours, clients chat amiably with staff.

A sign in the agency entrance frowns on the one beef its upstairs 
neighbours have: Clients' cigarette smoke.

I recall the drunken brawls I've witnessed at bars where patrons are 
beaten to a bloody pulp, how they're almost socially acceptable and 
just another Saturday night for their neighbours.

SCR psychiatrist Ian Postnikoff agrees the runaround foisted on his 
agency, first downtown and now in the northeast, is a product of the 
drug war's dehumanization.

"It's this attitude that 'they're only junkies anyway,' " says 
Postnikoff, noting after SCR was chased from the downtown, opiate use 
there remained.

Leaving Second Chance, the most menacing sight is of client Kevin, 
50, hobbling down the street on a dislocated hip.

He thanks me for stopping by.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom