When I lived in the New River Valley a couple of years ago, I witnessed the hue and cry over the planned establishment of a methadone clinic in Roanoke, by way of my subscription to the Roanoke Times. This private clinic would treat OxyContin and heroin addicts seeking to kick the habit, and be located in a mixed-use, primarily residential area. The letters to the editor poured in fast and furious. These people were absolutely convinced that it would, quite simply, be the end of Roanoke. The automobile traffic would be overwhelming. Junkies would show up firing guns. Children would be kidnapped by pedophiles. Cats would be sleeping with dogs, etc., etc.
I railed about this to whoever would listen, wrote letters to the papers, and wrote a paper about it for a class. This kind of thinking is insanity. I would happily live next door to a methadone clinic. Their customers are people seeking to kick the habit — they’re individuals who are responsible and (becoming) in control of their lives. They’re not dangerous. And heroin addicts aren’t poor folks — it’s a rich man’s drug. Heroin addicts are our neighbors, our cousins, our friends. The methadone clinic, if built, would have zero impact on the neighborhood.
Well, it got built and, a year later, the results are in. Crime went down in the neighborhood. Former opponents to the clinic now say that they don’t often notice it’s there anymore.
A lawsuit remains in the courts to force the clinic to shut down, but it seems a little silly now.
We’ve got a drug problem in this nation. It’s not helped by preventing clinics from opening for reasons of FUD, and it’s not helped by demonizing addicts. They’re regular people, looking to help themselves. Let them.