Pain Management / Dependency Clinic Divides A Community
Gary and Janet Coates are frustrated and angry at how some in the community are portraying methadone users.
The Coates have been following the news about the Wellbeings pain management and dependency clinic proposed to open in Aldershot at 444 Plains Rd. E. at the end of October. Methadone is to be one of its treatment options.
The couple was ecstatic to hear such a clinic would be opening in their city. Gary, 73, has been using methadone for the last two months, in combination with Oxycontin, to treat the painful nerve condition neuralgia he developed last year.
The couple has also been reading comments of residents who are fearful of the kind of clientele that will frequent the clinic located a stone's throw from Maplehurst Public School.
The Coateses say candidly it's time people get educated about who methadone users truly are - 'regular' citizens who need help in dealing with chronic pain, not strung out drug addicts who pose a danger to people as some in the city may think.
After reading about people's fears the clinic might ruin the area, enough was enough for Janet. She contacted the Post determined to break the stigma and stereotype of a methadone user.
"( Methadone ) is just a pain killer that is long acting and gives ( Gary ) relief of the pain so he can enjoy a quality of life without being heavily medicated on opiates," said Janet. "We do our homework, we educate ourselves and then we show our children the proper way to address this issue; ( the ) not-in-my-backyard ( mindset ) is not acceptable."
Said Gary: "Ignorance is not bliss. ( Community reaction ) makes me angry is what it does."
Gary is retired, having been the one-time president of Atlas Van Lines. Janet, 58, owned a national property management group that represented some 3,000 properties but sold it to have more time to help her husband.
He has battled various forms of cancer over the past 15 years, with the most recent fight involving terminal blood cancer. Last December, he developed shingles, which turned into neuralgia. Through the pain management clinic at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, Gary has been ingesting methadone in pill form for two months.
He said it has helped dull some of the pain and for that he is thankful. He never thought of methadone being used to treat chronic pain. He's glad he's taking it.
"When I found out what they were going to be able to do for me with it, ( it ) changed my opinion of ( methadone ) totally," Gary said.
'I'm a citizen, the same as them'
Janet said methadone - which is "very, very regulated" - has been effective for her husband of 21 years.
"Methadone has given me back his personality," she said.
Upon hearing about the new clinic, Janet said it was a "true blessing" because treatment could be closer to home. It would eliminate the Coates's need to drive to Toronto twice a month for a day-long visit and having to battle GTA rush-hour traffic, paying for parking and placing their dog, Trooper, in a kennel while attending Princess Margaret.
The couple would also prefer to be seen in a more intimate setting rather than in a hospital.
The Coateses have grown irritated by the perception some in the community have of methadone users.
"I'm a citizen, the same as them; I live in a very good neighbourhood, I contribute to the community whenever I can," Gary said.
Janet wants people to learn about the uses of methadone. Gesturing to Gary, she said: "This is not someone who is a danger or a detriment to the community. All of the people in the community should be like Gary..."
Janet thinks the clinic's closeness to the school could prove to be positive. She envisions a situation in which the clinic and the school could partner in some capacity to teach the dangers of drug use.
"This could be a great thing for the community, not a bad thing."
By Jason Misner
September 18, 2009