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As a patient of CAMP Calgary (they also have a Red Deer location and a Medicine Hat one) for over four years now, I can honestly say that I've never seen such a caring, devoted group of people working for such a noble cause.
Upon entering the clinic, you are greeted by an always-smiling Zara, the receptionist-extraordinaire who has been with the clinic since it's inception and who says she'd rather be nowhere else. If you are a new client, after Zara confirms that your Alberta Health Number is valid, Jim, the always joking intake worker will take you into a private room and perform your intake interview. After that, you will see one of the clinic's physicians. Which doctor you see (and subsequently becomes the doctor you see each time you have an appointment) largely depends on which doctor(s) is/are working on the day you come in and which of those have the lighter case-load at the moment. If you are a "complex dual-diagnosis" patient (meaning you not only have opiate dependency issues but major psychiatric ones also, such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, etc.) you will likely be assigned to "Dr. P", the clinic's addiction psychiatrist. An individual who is truly devoted to making his patients better, Dr. P has been in addiction medicine since 1990 and has operated methadone clinics in BC and Alberta. At one point, he was the head psychiatrist for the Federal prison in BC.
When you go and see the doctor, he/she will review your intake form and talk to you more about your dependency to determine what the proper initiation dose of methadone you should be started on. The law allows the clinic's doctors to start new clients on a maximum of 40mg of methadone per day, with a 10mg increase every 3 days as needed. This is done until you can go 24-36 hours without feeling "dope-sick", or have opiate withdrawal symptoms. There is no "average dose" of methadone and your dose isn't necessarily dependent on the dose of the opiate you were abusing prior to entering the program. There are clients who are on as little as 5mg to 10mg per day of methadone, and some who are on more than 500mg. Methadone is metabolized differently by everyone, so the only way to know the correct dose for any given person is to keep going up until you reach that point where you are withdrawal-free for 24-36 hours.
After meeting with the doc, he/she will fill out an Alberta Triplicate Prescription form (methadone is a narcotic and while only licensed doctors can prescribe it, it must still be prescribed on Alberta's special "Triplicate Prescription" form that all narcotics must be prescribed on) with the details of your dose and how long the pharmacist is to give it to you until you must come in and see the doctor again (initially, this will be every 3 or 4 days, but gets longer and longer as you "stabilize" on your dose). The doctor will fax the prescription off to the pharmacy down the hall (the Daylight Dispensary) and that is where you will head. Note that initially you must go to the clinic's pharmacy every day and drink your methadone in front of the pharmacist. Methadone is a very potent drug and is prone to misuse and diversion. It is for your safety and the safety of others that you must have a pharmacist "witness" you drink your dose. As you continue on the program and produce "clean" urine samples (free of other opiates, benzodiazapines, cocaine, THC and amphetamines), you will begin to earn "carry privileges". This means that you will be given an increasing number of doses to take home and consume on your own, however, this does not happen until you are producing consistent clean urine samples for at least 4 to 6 months.
Upon entering the Daylight Dispensary, Steve, the pharmacist will greet you and collect your information and enter it into the computer. Most third party insurance plans (e.g. Blue Cross, insurance you have through your job) will pay for all or most of your methadone. If you have a prescription drug card, be sure to give it to Steve at this point so that you pay as little as you have to. Insurance companies are bound by law to keep their records private and cannot tell your employer that you are taking methadone, so don't hesitate to use that insurance! Otherwise, you will pay about $14 per day for your methadone (plus the cost of any other medications that the doctor might put you on with your consent). Steve will make sure that you understand everything about methadone, what to expect, what to do if you experience something you aren't expecting and will then administer your first dose. The methadone liquid is put into a paper cup, then some Tang (an orange-flavored drink) is added to it to make it more palatable.
After you have been on methadone for a while (the exact length of time is up to the individual doctor), you will have the option of going to a pharmacy of your choice to drink your methadone and pick-up any carries you may have been granted. Only certain pharmacies dispense methadone (mostly the "big-box" ones like Shopper's and Safeway), but the clinic will make sure that they find a pharmacy that is convenient for you that also dispenses methadone.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Central Alberta Methadone Program and the Daylight Dispensary have recently moved--they are now located at 327 41st Ave NE, Calgary, AB.