State Looks Into Suspicious Activity Outside Methadone Clinic

PHILADELPHIA -- Methadone-related drug deaths are on the rise, and the state of Pennsylvania is taking action after the NBC 10 Investigators exposed the problem.

This week, NBC 10's Lu Ann Cahn showed undercover video outside Parkside Clinic in West Philadelphia that showed people apparently buying and selling drugs.

The state Department of Health told NBC 10 Friday it has been in touch with Parkside as a result of the story.

NBC 10 has received a lot of response from the story.

One man who contacted Cahn was Shawn, a recovering addict being treated with methadone at Parkside Clinic.

"I just want it to be known it works for people," Shawn said.

Shawn said that it saved his life.

Another former drug addict told NBC 10 that one methadone clinic saved her life, but, she said, going to Parkside was a disaster for her.

"They sell drugs right out front of the place. It's kind of hard when you're first trying to get clean to walk out of the place and they're selling drugs right there in your face, mostly pills. They sell their methadone bottles, you know, their take-home bottles," the former addict said.

Methadone is often given to heroin and prescription drug addicts because experts say it reduces cravings and it's easier to wean patients off liquid methadone than have them go through a painful withdrawal.

"Someone on methadone -- they can hold a job. They're not committing as many illegal activities, because they're not constantly thinking where is their next pill, their next shot," said Mark Besden, with the Discovery House Clinic.

Still, methadone is an addictive drug that can be fatal in the wrong dose or combined with other drugs.

Marti Hottenstein knew her son Karl was addicted to prescription painkillers. She said he'd been trying to get help, but she believes the last thing he did was buy an illegal dose of methadone on the street.

"My son died from a liquid dose, which comes from the clinics," Hottenstein said.

"A lot of times, I've seen people come out and hold the dose in their mouths and spit it back out when they get outside," a recovering addict told NBC 10.

Some patients are trusted with take-home bottles of methadone.

"Parkside does not condone or support illegal activities and has comprehensive processes in place to deter activity that might occur... this is not an admission that any Parkside clients have engaged in any unlawful activity," said the Parkside Clinic in a news release.

Meanwhile, Marti Hottenstein has helped convince the state to review methadone regulations.

When Parkside Clinic became aware NBC 10 was working on a story, a dramatic change was apparent. There were more security guards, and the suspicious activity ended.

NBC 10 has heard from people who work in well-run clinics, as well as those who said they're at a clinic that's far worse than what we documented.

Almost everyone agrees the new state task force is needed, and NBC 10 will continue to update this story.

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