Following the death of a 24-year-old University of Montevallo student from methadone, Alabama authorities have asked for an investigation into the clinic providing the treatment, the Mobile Register reported Aug. 13.
Last fall, Richard Mitchell Shrum died from methadone intoxication just three days after starting his methadone treatment for his addiction to narcotic painkillers.
His death had led the state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, which oversees addiction-treatment clinics, to begin an inquiry into the Gulf Coast Treatment Center Inc. Health officials said they received several other complaints about the methadone clinic.
In addition, the state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation has asked the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to assist in the review.
"It's more of an examination than an investigation," said John Ziegler, spokesman for the mental health department. "Our internal investigative unit is not involved."
Addiction experts in Alabama said the probe is long overdue. Calling the system poorly regulated, addiction experts said the treatment network puts people in for-profit clinics that provide methadone without properly screening the clients for other dangerous drugs.
"These methadone clinics are all about profit," said Dr. Christopher Jenkins, a psychiatrist who operates Recovery Medical of Mobile.
State officials said the probe could be expanded to include other deaths related to methadone clinics throughout the state.
"We are receiving an increasing number of complaints regarding the amount of methadone that is available on the streets, consumer complaints about take-home restrictions, pain management clinics, applications for new clinics, and numerous deaths reportedly related to overdose of methadone," said Kathy Sawyer, mental health department commissioner.