Pubdate: Tue, 8 Dec 1998
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 1998 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Author: Betsy Blaney, Star-Telegram Staff Writer


A narcotic used to treat heroin addicts caused the death of a North
Richland Hills man who died in late October, according to Tarrant
County Medical Examiner's Office records.

Christopher W. Bryant, 18, had started taking methadone to kick his
heroin habit days before his uncle found him dead Oct. 23 on a living
room couch in his family's house. Police had suspected that Bryant may
have died after using heroin.

Family members declined to comment yesterday.

On the day after Bryant's death, his mother said she had heard that he
had exaggerated the amount of his daily heroin usage when he went to a
Fort Worth treatment clinic Oct. 19 for his first of four methadone
doses. Bryant's friends have said that he used heroin for about four
months before he died.

Bryant's mother said her son couldn't function or go to work after he
took his daily dose of methadone, a response that some experts said
would indicate that the dosage was too high.

Clinic officials could not be reached to comment yesterday. In a
previous interview, the clinic's director said Bryant took his last
dose of methadone at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 22. Bryant's uncle found him dead
about 9:30 a.m. Oct. 23.

Death resulting from methadone is uncommon, a drug expert said. "I've
known it to happen, but in the clinics I've worked in, it's rare,"
said Lois Chatham, who has worked at the National Institute on Drug
Abuse and is associate director and senior scientist at Texas
Christian University's Institute of Behavioral Research in Fort Worth.

Methadone works by bonding to brain receptors, blocking the pain
messages that they transmit when the heroin supply stops and tricking
the brain into thinking that the cravings have been satisfied. Addicts
report that with methadone, they feel normal again, without the
rapturous highs and gut-wrenching lows of heroin.

In methadone maintenance treatment, heroin addicts can take methadone
for years, with gradually tapering doses, or, in some cases, for life.
In methadone detoxification, patients take the drug for about 30 days
to cleanse their bodies of heroin.

For those trying to kick a heroin habit, exaggerating their usage
isn't unusual, some experts say.

"But most clinics know that they do that," Chatham said of
exaggeration. "And they don't believe what they [heroin addicts] tell

When most addicts go to clinics, they are in withdrawal and medical
personnel will monitor their pupils, check their pupils, check their urine
and sometimes do blood work

When someone is given methadone for the first time, clinic personnel
usually request that they stay for about an hour to check that the
amount of methadone given is commensurate with their heroin usage,
said Charles Parks, a recovering heroin addict and counselor with
Tarrant County Outreach in Arlington and Fort Worth.

Within an hour of treatment, a heroin user will feel the full effects
of methadone, and the influence of the synthetic opiate lessens
gradually during subsequent hours, Parks said.

Information was unavailable yesterday about whether Bryant stayed at
the clinic so personnel could monitor the effects of the methadone.

Bob Josch, a chemical dependency counselor and director of addiction
services at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, said heroin
addicts want to ensure that they are going to get enough methadone to
deal with their heroin withdrawal.

"So you have to get in the mind of the addict," he said. "An addict is

terrified they are never going to have enough.

"In the mind of the addict, there is never enough."

Toxicology results are pending on three other Northeast Tarrant County
residents whose deaths authorities suspect were caused by heroin.
Stephanie Holley, 18, of Bedford died Oct. 7; Kristen Taylor, 19, of
North Richland Hills died Oct. 27; and Claude Pittmon, 48, of Bedford
died Nov. 13.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady