I WISH to respond to erroneous and inappropriate comments by Michael Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse, in "Addicts fight stigma of methadone" (Evening Sun, May 15).
I find it inappropriate for an appointed official of Baltimore County to make negative remarks about any treatment modality. Gimbel states, "Methadone programs that do not stress counseling are nothing more than gas and go agencies," and, "There just isn't enough counseling at most methadone programs."
Gimbel apparently believes that clients report to the clinic, get a dose of medication and float out the door. The reality is that methadone programs are mandated to provide counseling. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Maryland State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration and the Baltimore City Health Department inspect regularly to insure compliance.
Gimbel says, "Abstinence should be the goal, but far too many people on methadone see it as a lifelong crutch." I do not know any patient in methadone treatment who likes the idea of being dependent on methadone or having to report daily to the clinic for medication/treatment. And what is wrong with someone who has the disease of narcotic addiction taking a medication for an indefinite period of time -- if need be, for life? Methadone patients do not walk around high when they are on a stabilized optimum dose of medication. They are citizens in the community who function just like other individuals who may be dependant on insulin, digitalis, thyroid medication, eye glasses or other needed medications.
And what is wrong with being frightened that the discontinuance of methadone treatment could result in relapse? There are many people, including myself, who believe narcotic addiction is a chronic disease for which there is no known cure. At Man Alive, clients collectively contribute $216,000 toward their treatment costs. At least 69 percent of our clients are employed.
As a patient who has been in methadone treatment for over 24 years, I resent and am insulted by Gimbel's statement: "But lots of people on meth are kind of lazy about it and never plan to kick." I hope some day to become drug free, but narcotic addiction stole my youth, my opportunity for an education and resulted in my having spent 12 years in and out of prisons. If taking medication daily is a security blanket or a crutch, it is providing a crime-free and healthy lifestyle for me and thousands of other methadone-maintained patients. I am proud to work to raise the self-esteem of methadone-maintained patients, a goal that Gimbel seems not to share.
The writer is executive director of Man Alive Inc. in Baltimore.