Monday, 2 July 2007

Chapter 26 - Methadone metronome

December 1999

The Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy with their hit “Television the Drug of a Nation”. Have a lyric that goes “the methadone metronome….”, and it is a very apt analogy, for when you go on methadone you commit to a steady routine of intoxication. As a heroin addict there is no regularity, you go through blissful periods of plenty and torturous times of nothing.

I felt that I could no longer handle this addiction by myself, and I knew that I needed help. The move to the Gold Coast had not helped I was still addicted. With mum’s help we contacted a few detox facilities but they were full up. When we did find one with a vacancy I was not sure I wanted to go. Going on the methadone program seemed like a more attractive solution. It meant I could still be wasted, but for only $3.40 per day, what a bargain. The fact was I didn’t have to change as much

So I burned all my phone numbers for my heroin contacts, including Lee. I didn’t want to be tempted in a moment of weakness. I knew though that if I really wanted it there were always places it could be found (Nimbin, Fortitude Valley in Brisbane).

Mum and Dad were relieved to see me seeking help. They were very disturbed by what I was doing. Dad was in denial about the problem and distanced himself from me, while mum provided the bulk of the emotional and physical support. I was blissfully unaware of the impact my behaviour was having on her, she had withdrawn from contact with other family members because she couldn’t handle talking about me.

Mum’s sister rang and left a message on the answering machine for mum to contact her. “I am very concerned about you Jemima, if you don’t return my call I will be contacting the police to check on you, please call me, we love you please call”

The grip of heroin had become so strong I just couldn’t seem to control my actions alone. At university I had started out with the idea that it would never happen to me, I was strong enough to simply use heroin as a recreational drug. But alas this was not the case. I had wanted to prove that heroin could be used in a reasonable manner. But what I proved is that heroin turns reasonable people into desperate, self-centred, irresponsible, destructive fools. Hey I am sure that maybe a very small percentage of people may be able to manage this drug but they are few and far between and certainly wasn’t one of them.

I went to a doctor who specialised in treating heroin addicts. She put me on methadone, I was relieved and excited. This was just another stage in my journey, and I was certain that I would find the solution to my problem.

“So how much do you use a day?”

“Ah depends what I can get, but usually a decent quarter will last a day but you know it depends.”

“Well I need to know so that I can determine an appropriate dose of methadone.”

I wanted to make sure that I got a enough ‘done to do the job so I was happy to exaggerate the level of my addiction.

She phoned the local pharmacy and organised for me to collect my dose. I was looking forward to my first hit of licit drugs.

“Now Dave this methadone will help address your addiction but you really need some support, why don’t you come to an AA meeting with me?”

“You go to AA?”

“I certainly do, its really helped me with my addiction”

“Your addiction?”

“Yes I’m an alcoholic, I understand what its like to be addicted, AA has really helped me a great deal”

“I don’t want to give up all drugs just the smack, pots ok.”

“You know you are just swapping the witch for the bitch”, she said when I told her I was using marijuana to withdraw from smack.

Mum gave me a lift to a NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting a few weeks later to find out what it was all about. But I never went back. The atmosphere was oppressive a bunch of junkies in a hall talking about how fucked up they were, far from helping it made me felt like I needed a hit just to recover from the bloody meeting. Far from being anonymous I felt like the whole process was just a display.

Although I was not working, weekends were still something I looked forward to. The chemist was closed on a Sunday and I would be given a take away dose as well as my usual Saturday dose. During the week I would arrive at the chemist, pay the $4 for my dose and drink about 50 mls of liquid from a small paper cup.

However, on weekends I would go home and take both at once to get more of a hit. Because I could take it home I could also shoot it up. Now shooting methadone requires some extra apparatus. For starters I would get all the gear from the needle exchange who supplied me with 10 ml syringes about the size of a big nikko pen. A long thin piece of plastic tubing and what is called a butterfly attachment which contained the needle. I needed the big syringes because I would usually get about 20ml of methadone to inject, which is quite a lot of fluid compared to about 0.5 ml injected when using heroin.

It didn’t give you a rush like heroin but it was much more powerful way of ingesting it. By injecting the methadone it became active more rapidly than it did when you drank it. There was also a strong psychological association with the whole injecting process, which was strongly linked to the intense rush and pleasure.

When I worked in the exchange people would regularly come in for them, I knew what they were for but had never tried it myself until I was on the “done” , pronounced like Ken Done.

When I smoked pot on the done I got off my face. I wasn’t sure why this happened but there was no doubt in my mind that they had a synergistic effect.

I had been on methadone for about 2 months when I was late going to pick up my dose on a Saturday. By the time I got to the chemist they were closed and I had not only missed Saturday’s dose but Sundays as well.

A couple of old junkies with a young baby sat on the footpath, there bodies looked as if they had been deprived of all nutrient, sucked dry. Sunken cheeks, dry skin, whispy sparse hair and emaciated bodies, in contrast to the grubby cherub squealing in their pram. The male was on the nod, his eyes half closed head hanging forward, and then snap he raised his head opening his eyes to reveal two tiny pupils, his eyes were ‘pinned’.

On the Monday I came in and complained that I had missed my dose, but they explained that it was my responsibility to get there on time. At this moment I felt intensely the sense of dependency and powerlessness that is addiction. I had met a few methadone users who had been on the program for decades, there was no way I was going to end up like that.

I had brief fantasy trip and pictured myself after 10 years on methadone, not a pretty sight. I remembered the warnings “Once you get on the done man, you wont get off trust me, I know I’ve tried heaps a times, just forget it man, I’ve been on this shit for 10 years the government don’t want ya to get off the shit mate, nah they want you on it, the fuckin chemists make a mint on this shit…………………..”.

Heroin has a certain sexy appeal to drug users, illegal, powerful, dangerous, methadone made being a drug user boring, no more rush no excitement, just a monotonous routine. You can’t travel too far from your chemist and so you are always constrained by that.

“Its fucking liquid hand cuffs is what it is, fuckin methadone metronomes, man it just traps people you become dependant on the state and they control you, fuck that shit.”

Thus I decided that I would cease my consumption of this material and rather than steadily reduce my dose bit by bit I just jumped off from 75mg a day to nothing. It was only four weeks till my trial I had been on the ‘done’ for 3 months it was time. The thought of going to gaol as an addict further terrified me.

Bring it on I thought, I welcomed the challenge, that was until the real withdrawals kicked in then I became a pathetic moaning child. The twelve weeks that I was on methadone were like a blur. It was like being in a time warp.

While the withdrawals were intense, my whole body seemed to be screaming out in protest. Every cell in my being was hanging out and they all howled in unison incessantly. My muscles hurt, stomach cramps, restless legs, I felt anxious, could not eat, and felt a terrible sense of emptiness.

When you go on Methadone there a few things they don’t tell you. One o f them is that it creates intense constipation. Jeff who I had introduced to heroin was on the methadone program as well and he had such bad constipation from the Methadone we had to call an Ambulance.

“Dave, fuckin, hell, man….I’m really fucked up dude I cant shit man, I cant fuckin shit, its fuckin blocked like a mother fucker, oh man its hurtin, oh shit, you gota help me man, call a fuckin ambulance please……..” he screamed out.

He was in so much pain he could not walk and they took him to hospital and gave him an enema. They never tell you about how to deal with it when you get it prescribed.It suppresses the secretion of mucous, dry mouth, cant shit or piss. Most junkies have very bad teeth Cavities

To deal with the withdrawals I took Clonidine, Valium, pot and the occasional shot of heroin. It takes about a week to completely withdrawn from heroin, while the withdrawal symptoms for Methadone last for about 4 weeks. Withdrawing from methadone was hell, it made coming off heroin look easy, the sleepless nights, restless legs, muscle spasms, and underlying anxiety, were common to both but the methadone withdrawal symptoms lasted 4 times as long.

Jeff was also on methadone by this time and we swapped stories about our experiences with it. As soon as I was off the methadone I went back on ’the gear’, steroids.

“What do straight people do, I mean they must get so fuckin bored, just doing as they are fuckin like a herd of sheep, one following after the other” , Roscoe Boscoe.

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