Running head: Heroin or Methadone Which Harms More? 1
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Heroin or Methadone Which Harms More? Journal Review Andrew Gomez
Concordia University- Portland
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Heroin or Methadone, Which Harms More? 2
Philippe Bourgois conducted a study regarding heroin addicts and the method of
treatment issued in the United States. The purpose was to expose the failing form of treatment by
using interviews with a few individuals who are currently under treatment. The treatment given
by health clinics is doses of methadone. The reason methadone is given to heroin addicts is due
to its ability to block the pleasure that heroin stimulates. However, by issuing daily doses of
methadone, most patients become tolerant and the entire treatment becomes counter productive.
While Bourgois clearly states that the methadone treatment works for some, most continue to
suffer without being entirely clean. Methadone clinics are required to randomly drug test their
clients and statistics show that 16%-60% of people fail urine tests (p. 180). Despite the large
difference between the two numbers, the statistics report that the treatment is not working.
Because methadone blocks the effects of heroin, this drug is not producing the dirty urine
samples. It is known that crack cocaine stimulates the effects of methadone. This explains the
large amounts of failed drug tests. Bourgois exposes the faulty clinic treatments and goes out on
the limb and accuses methadone clinics to be "legalized dope dealers," (p. 178). As he explains,
methadone clinics are for-profit treatment centers that cost $12 a day (p.176). At times, the
dosages patients receive are not strong enough to block the high heroin gives. Patients then
request for a higher amount of methadone, but their request isn't satisfied because of a failed
drug test. Patients are actually given much less than before, which does not suit them at all.
Bourgois stresses the fact that the clinics seem to be in charge of the patient's life instead of the
other way around. Instead of realistically attempting to aid a drug addict in need, methadone
clinics follow their own rules for the most part and make giants profits. While Bourgois does his
fair share of critiquing of the system of heroin treatment, he does so by adding an alternative.
Heroin or Methadone, Which Harms More? 3
Bourgois adds information regarding the legalization of medically prescribed heroin in
Switzerland. Instead of tackling one drug (heroin) by enforcing another (methadone),
Switzerland prescribes doses of heroin (p. 187). Depending on the status of the patient, an
amount of heroin is distributed. The set amount is slowly reduced until the patient is no longer
being given heroin. In the United States, one is required to quit the hard drug all at once. Studies
in Switzerland show their method not only aids more drug addicts, but reduces the number of
individuals with HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Aside from the reduction of diseases,...