A methadone clinic in uptown Saint John has the highest patient retention rate in the country, according to a new study.

mi-methadone

Methadone is a drug used to help control the withdrawal symptoms from opiates. (Chuck Branham/Associated Press)

 

The numbers show 95 per cent of methadone patients at the Saint John’s Uptown Clinic, based out of St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre, stayed in the program after one year, nearly double the rate of programs in other parts of the country.

"No one has come even near that," said Timothy Christie, regional director of ethics services for Horizon Health.

He's been studying the uptown clinic's methadone treatment since 2009.

Methadone is a drug used to help control the withdrawal symptoms from opiates.

Christie said the difference at the Saint John clinic is that patients don't have to take counseling, or pass drug tests to stay in the program.

"We showed that it's the opposite result. By removing all punitive measures, we have nothing but fantastic results for the patients," he said.

In addition to the high retention rate the study shows a decrease of 66 per cent in the number of patients using illicit opiates. There was also a drop in cocaine use.

Christie said it costs about $5,000 to treat a patient for one year at the clinic. He puts the price tag for an untreated opiate addiction at $45,000 year in legal and health costs. 

At AIDS Saint John, executive-director Julie Dingwell said she can see the difference it's making for addicts.

"They're now coming in and they're making plans for rebuilding their lives. Many of them now are in some sort of stable housing," she said.

Dingwell says she'd like to see methadone programs expanded in some of the province's rural areas.