Gave Patient Drugs, Then Let Her Drive Off and Cause Fatal Accident, Family Alleges; Family Also Seeks Change in Maryland Law
The family of Carolyn DiCocco, the 64-year-old Harford County resident killed in a 2011 car accident caused by 28-year-old Nicole Ashley Albers, has filed suit in Harford County Circuit Court against the Medication Assisted Treatment Technologies (MATT) Clinic of Belcamp, for $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The DiCocco family is also seeking changes in Maryland’s methadone administration laws to help prevent situations like this from happening to others.
The death of Carolyn DiCocco occurred on July 21, 2011, on Fountain Green Road (Rte. 543) just past the Fountain Green Swim Club. Albers had just received a methadone dose at the MATT Clinic, 1361 Brass Mill Road in Belcamp, Maryland. Shortly afterwards, she drove her car across the center line of Fountain Green Road and into the DiCocco family car, in which Carolyn DiCocco was a passenger.
On August 27, 2012, Albers pleaded guilty to the crime of manslaughter by motor vehicle, and on October 1, 2012, she received a 10-year prison term, with 5 years suspended.
As reported by the Harford County Aegis on September 5, 2012, and confirmed by court records, subsequent testing of Albers’ blood revealed not only the methadone she had been given by the clinic, but also the presence of a form of Xanax and of amphetamines. The combination of methadone and Xanax is widely understood to cause serious impairment to cognitive ability, rendering a subject unable to adequately perform such tasks as safely driving a car.
The lawsuit, filed by the law firm of Parker, Pallett & Slezak, P.A., on behalf of Albert DiCocco (husband of the deceased), her two sons Robert DiCocco and Mark DiCocco, and her mother Margaret Borkowski, alleges that the MATT Clinic either failed to adequately test Albers as required by law, to rule out the presence of Xanax and other drugs in her system, so that methadone could be safely administered, or ignored the results of the tests it did give her. This failure caused Albers’ impairment, which directly caused the accident in which Mrs. DiCocco was killed.
“The negligence of the MATT Clinic was a proximate cause of the death of Mrs. DiCocco,” says Karmen Slezak, an attorney on the case. “It is a classic case of the unbroken chain of liability in Tort Law,” she adds. “The MATT Clinic has a duty to operate in such as way to protect its patients and the public at large from reasonably recognized and foreseeable consequences of giving methadone to its patients. Since the interaction of Xanax and methadone are well-known and well-publicized in the medical treatment community, testing of methadone patients to insure that they are not already taking Xanax and other drugs is required by law and by the clinic’s own set procedures — this is the clinic’s duty. The clinic failed to uphold its duty, and the foreseeable result occurred: Albers drove away and within just a few minutes the combination of drugs in her system, a combination that was known or should have been known by the clinic, impaired her driving ability, ultimately resulting in a conviction for manslaughter by automobile,” Slezak reports.
Methadone is a drug widely used to control heroin addiction. The licensed clinics that administer methadone are private for-profit institutions; their expenses are paid by health insurers, who reimburse the clinics per methadone dose delivered. The patients pay nothing. Methadone itself is an addictive drug, and therefore the patients typically remain on a methadone program for years.
Xanax is a prescription drug that treats general anxiety disorder and panic disorder. When combined with methadone, it can be the equivalent of a knock-out dose.
“These clinics must be held accountable,” says Robert DiCocco, son of the deceased. “To let a person just drive away with these drugs in her system is like pushing a blind man towards a cliff — there’s no question that something terrible is going to happen, something that could be so easily avoided if only the clinic had followed its required procedures,” DiCocco adds.
The DiCocco family is so distraught because of the gross negligence of the MATT Clinic that the family is working to change Maryland law.
“The baleful effects of methadone combined with Xanax are so well known,” says Robert DiCocco, “that other municipalities, including ones in New York, New Hampshire, California and, I believe, Virginia, have passed laws requiring these private clinics to provide their patients transportation services home after the treatment. This of course adds to the clinics’ costs, but the clinics reap such huge profits from reimbursements, that they can afford it, and the community is well-served and protected much better,” DiCocco states.
The DiCocco family plans to meet with Harford County legislators to see if Maryland’s methadone administration laws can be supplemented in the same way as those of other states, to protect other families from suffering the same kind of harm and loss as the DiCocco family has endured. “It’s what our mother would have wanted,” says Robert DiCocco. “She devoted her life to helping people, beginning with her immediate family and stretching out to embrace the entire community, and this kind of added protection is exactly what we’d like her legacy to be,” he states.
What a shame. 5 years jail time for manslaughter is the second slap in the face.
Robert DiCocco says
Unfortunately 10 years was the maximum for manslaughter in MD. 5 years in jail and 5 years supervised probation. We all wanted more, but it is what it is. Thanks
This is such a sad story. The DiCocco family have lost what appears to be a remarkable woman, wife, and mother. I can’t imagine the pain of such a heartbreaking and sudden loss. What in injustice that this Albers character gets to go back to her family in 5 years.
That said, methadone maintenance seems to often get a bad rap. Yes, methadone is a narcotic. Yes, it is addictive. However, many, many addicts use methadone maintenance to end their run with illegal street drugs or illegally-obtained prescription medication and the dangers that surround that lifestyle. They improve their lives and become productive members of society all because this treatment is offered. Yes, there are still bad apples in the bunch. It is incredibly unfortunate that Albers chose to ingest a benzodiazepine along with the methadone dose she received daily, but I’m not sure I agree that the blame lies on the shoulders of MATT. It is unrealistic to expect MATT to drug test their patients/clients daily.
If it turns out that MATT did indeed drug test Albers that morning and dosed her knowing benzodiazepines were in her system, or if MATT chose to never have Albers submit a sample for drug screening, then they are clearly culpable to some degree. However, this article doesn’t provide additional details, including raising the possibility that Albers took a benzodiazepine following her methadone dose that day.
My heart goes out to the DiCocco family. I hope it doesn’t appear as if I’m defending the person who took their loved one away, as that is not my intent. Whatever happens, I hope the family can continue to heal and find some calm in the storm.
Robert DiCocco says
There is no doubt that if meth is used properly it does change peoples lives for the better.
The problem lies with these FOR PROFIT clinics. This is a business. Where is the incentive to get the patient off the meth like the package insert states. No patients, No profits, No jobs, No Clinics.
More info will be disclosed that shows who is at fault with this fatal accident. Police reports also show that Ms. Albers did admit to taking the Xanax 30 minutes BEFORE her daily dosing. This method is called “boosting” which is VERY common in the Meth arena.
The laws need to change like in our surrounding states. You can’t go get a cortisone shot and drive, let alone get drugged up on Meth and drive. There is a FEDERAL law that states if you drive a commercial vehicle YOU CAN NOT DRIVE WHILE ON METH. You can drive on ANY OTHER DRUG, BUT METH is the one that is policed. There is a reason for that.
Kerry Wolf says
Robert, firstly, PLEASE don’t call methadone “meth”. Meth is a common street term for the street drug methamphetamine, NOT for the prescription opioid methadone. Using this term often confuses people into believing that methadone patients are receiving methamphetamine at the clinic, or that the drugs are the same or similar, which could not be farther from the truth.
Secondly, the article is blatantly wrong when it states that no patients pay out of pocket for their care. The fact is, the majority of patients in the USA pay IN FULL for the entire cost of their treatment since insurance often does not cover it. Most patients must pay between $250 to $450 a month for their treatment entirely on their own. Some states accept medicaid payments, others do not, but by no means do all or even most patients qualify for medicaid.
Thirdly, why on earth would you think it is wrong somehow for a clinic to receive reimbursement for the services provided? Do you feel it is wrong for doctors and nurses and counselors in other areas of medicine to expect to be paid for their services? Do you feel it is wrong for traditional, revolving-door abstinence based rehabs to charge patients for their services? Why should this be any different?
Moreover, the “reason” that the DOT won’t let commercial drivers drive on methadone does not in any way have anything to do with it being more potent than other narcotics. In fact, over twelve studies done on methadone patients and the ability to drive while on methadone showed that when the patient was stable on the dosage and not using any other drugs, the ability to drive was not impaired in any way. EVERY test done showed this result. When you see wrecks and accidents involving methadone, you can bet your bottom dollar there were other drugs involved or the person was using methadone recreationally and had no tolerance to it like clinic patients do, yet somehow, everyone always manages to overlook that one little fact and tries to blame the methadone.
The real reason the DOT outlaws methadone is prejudice and ignorance, pure and simple. What they are doing is illegal, because in order for a company or institution or employer to refuse employment to someone based on them taking a legallly prescribed medication, they must demonstrate that that particular person is so impaired by that particular drug that they cannot function safely. A blanket pronouncement of “we don’t like this methadone stuff so we are just going to make a rule that no one can take it and drive commercially, but we WILL allow everyone to take fentanyl, morphine, demerol, dilaudid, etc and that’s fine” is blatantly illegal, and is even now being challenged in court. The only other field which discriminates against MMT patients illegally is nursing, where nurses in recovery are not allowed to be on methadone, but nurses who take methadone for pain are allowed to practice while taking it. This is also finally working its way through the court system and will soon be set right.
Methadone is used in treatment precisely because it does NOT cause impairment in tolerant patients–they can drive, work at any job, raise children, etc without cognitive impairment.
To expect a clinic to provide transportation for their patients is ludicrous in the extreme. Many clinics must serve hundreds of patients if not thousands due to there not being enough of them to meet the need , and some patients must travel hours each day to receive their meds until they qualify for take home doses, which takes a very long time. They would have to hire dozens of drivers and buy dozens of vehicles and drive thousands of miles each day to do this, not to mention that it would take enormous chunks of the patient’s time to await transportation, await their turn to dose and await the eventual ride back. These people have jobs they must get to, kids to get to school, and duties they must attend to–they don’t live under a bridge somewhere.
Lastly, I want to point out that the idea that clinics want to keep people on methadone to keep the money rolling in is ridiculous. Clinics are generally overcrowded and many have long waiting lists. Even those that do not would have no problem replacing a departing patient with a new one the same day. There is no need to hang onto patients who wish to leave treatment for the sake of their money, when the money will be replaced by someone else’s the same day. Rather, clinics do not usually push and encourage patients to get off methadone because the relapse rate for those leaving treatment is sky high–about 90% in the first year. However, for those who remain IN treatment, the success rate (i.e., those who are abstinent from illicit drugs and are productive, law abiding citizens)is about 65%–much much higher than with any other form of treatment. The goal of methadone treatment is not necessarily to get off methadone. Patients using it as ordered, while they are physically dependent on it, are not “addicted” to it, as addiction involves a set of behaviors not found in compliant patients.
Kerry: I wonder if your feelings would be any different had it been your mother killed in this situation. The DiCocco’s are a fine upstanding family and Ms. Carol was a loving, giving woman who deserved to live. If things can be changed to save just one person than it needs to be changed.I applaud the DiCocco family for fighting this painful battle.
The Money Tree says
Can’t imagine something as insensitive as to lecture a man who lost his wife due to a drug addicted POS about how great methadone is. He’s got a point – is there any incentive to ever get people of drugs when there’s profit in keeping people addicted? No – that would be obvious to a five year old and ought to be obvious to you.
I just clicked thumbs up on a comment by The Money Tree….think I need to go lie down for a while…..
Love and prayers to the Dicocco family. I know that Mrs. Dicocco would be proud of all of you for fighting for justice on her behalf.
The Harford County Health Department runs its own Methadone clinic, I wonder what precautions are in place there to keep people from driving away under the influence?
Many “Pain Management” clinics are also doing the same thing, with little care for how their patients arrive and leave. It is all part of a nationwide epidemic. The pharmaceutical companies stand to lose billions of dollars if a majority of Methadone, Suboxone and pain management patients were actually treated with the goal of short term opiod tapers in mind.
Methadone is harder to detoxify from than the heroin itself, it just happens to be a pharmaceutical grade of opiate that can be controlled better (but not perfectly, obviously) than the street drug it replaces. While these drugs have their place in modern medicine, they are extremely over prescribed. Suboxone, for instance, can be used in a rapid detoxification of 3-7 days, so long as the patient’s other symptoms are being addressed, ie: if they have sleep issues, they can be prescribed a medicine with low addictive qualities, such as Trazadone (Ambien and Lunesta and all of the over the counter “PM” medicines can have worse side effects and have higher incidences of abuse). If the person is having cramping/pain, an over the counter analgesic can be used. If the person has major depression after the first week or so, there are an abundance of modern anti-depressants that can be used. There are also other anti-craving drugs on the market. With all of that being said, there are key elements that are NOT being used in these clinics, they are: co-morbidity screening and treatment (full evaluations to look into other mental health issues), group therapy, 12-step meeting attendance, and family health meetings. You can not help an addict by simply having him/her take more drugs. A multi-faceted approach MUST be used. No one thing is going get someone well, you have to bombard this thing from all sides.
There are doctors right here in Harford County that make over 90% of their money from Suboxone maintenance patients, they are profiteering from the addicts, their families, and society, and they have no intention of ever telling any of their patients that are other ways to get clean and lead productive lives. These doctors collect between $250 and $600 per month, every month, for YEARS on end from some of their patients without requiring any kind of counseling, groups, or other adjunct therapies. Can you say “cash cow”?!?!
If you, or someone you know, have been paying one of these doctors or clinics for months on end, I have some good news for you – it doesn’t have to be that way!
For people with no insurance or state funded insurance, ask your local health department or social services department for a list of state funded inpatient/residential detox centers.
For those that may have private insurance and some ability to self pay for treatment, call the member services number on your insurance card for a list of treatment options.
There are two places in Harford County for 30 or 28 day treatment:
Phoenix Recovery in Edgewood – no frills, solid program with great counseling, takes private insurance and private pay.
Father Martin’s Ashley in Havre de Grace – top notch, cream of the crop, not cheap, takes private insurance and private pay, also has a new “Pain Recovery” program with the goal of getting chronic pain patients OFF of opiates and benzodiazepines all together.
Also to consider:
Kolmac Clinic – For those that can make it over the Towson area several times per week for intensive outpatient treatment with the possibility of prescription management and psychological help.
Mercy Hospital in downtown Baltimore – short term immediate detox/stabilization, most insurances including some state funded.
Johns Hopkins Bayview in East Baltimore – short term immediate detox/stabilization, most insurances including some state funded.
Those are just a few of the options out there, for more resources play around with the following website: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
The most important thing to remember when looking at treatment options is that YOU CAN NOT HELP AN ADDICT BY SIMPLY GIVING THEM A DIFFERENT DRUG! Addiction recovery needs a multi-faceted approach.
AA and Al-anon, as well as NA and Nar-anon, are all free, and are readily accessible in all communities to help alcoholics, addicts, and their loved ones.
Sorry for the diatribe, I began with just wanting to rant a little about these clinics, but felt the need to explain in detail and become solution oriented. I hope someone can get some actual help, because real help does indeed exist out there.
Kerry Wolf says
AA and NA have abysmal long term and even short term success rates when it comes to long term opioid addicts. SO do abstinence based rehabs–usually somewhere between 5 and 10%. This is because opioid addiction causes changes in the brain chemistry of the user–changes that often are permanent, and that no amount of counseling, therapy, religious group meetings, etc can fix. It requires, for some, long term MEDICAL intervention, to stabilize the brain chemistry and allow the patient to feel and behave normally–not high, not euphoric–normal.
We have opioid receptors in our brain for a reason–they are there because our brain makes natural opioids called endorphins–a word that means, literally, “morphine from within”. When the brain ceases to produce this chemical, the patient–even after they complete a physical withdrawal from the drug–experiences severe depression, extreme irritability and anxiety, lethargy and exhaustion, and is beset with constant cravings–symptoms that do not always–or even usually–disappear with time, but often remain permanently. Methadone replaces the missing endorphins in the brain–NOT the drug of abuse, as is commonly thought–and allows the patient to function normally again. Suboxone works the same way, for people with light habits.
Just getting people off drugs physically rarely accomplishes anything–they almost always relapse the minute they are out, particularly opioid addicts. If the problem is biochemical, counseling and therapy, while helpful to some, does not fix the problem, any more than counseling would fix schizophrenia, another brain chemistry disorder.
@ Kerry and @ MOMOF3 there is no such thing as a “light” opiate addiction, and I have indeed spoken to addicts about Methadone, thousands of them! If you want to go toe to toe on this with someone who has experience in addictions from multiple perspectives, ie: self, family, friends, college education in addictions treatment, career in addictions treatment, and multiple years working in a substance abuse crisis center, you are welcome to do so, but you had better break out the big guns. I have come across literally thousands of people who have been to these clinics, and while Methadone can be used as PART of a treatment, in itself, it is NO GOOD. Comprehensive therapies dealing with co-morbid disorders, group therapies, 1 on 1 counseling sessions, 12 step meetings, etc, should ALL be used. Methadone alone solves nothing, and Methadone can indeed produce euphoria, lethargy, and impairment. METHADONE IS AN OPIOD. The point is, that these places that simply dole out the prescriptions have a responsibility to make sure that their patients are being monitored very closely; daily testing and multi-faceted treatment modalities are indicated.
Simply dosing someone and letting them get in their vehicle and drive away is irresponsible, extremely irresponsible. Of course these places need to make money, non-profit or not the bills need to be paid. The other point is that if they are going to be in business, they need to make sure they know what the hell they are doing.
Bren ONeal says
Chris Williams says
Below is one of the best articles I have ever read about this ongoing problem. It was dated back in 2007! My heart goes out to the DiCocco family. I hope the family brings this information out for all to know. I agree with Melanie, if the shoe was on the other foot, I would like to hear what Kerry would do. I too was on methadone and it was horrible to get off, the clinic did NOTHING to help me get off the methadone. It does help, but needs to be regulated more by the governments.
“Today, many Americans go to a methadone clinic. Some do it for legitimate reasons, others do it just to get a high. The problem with these methadone clinics are that they are for-profit organizations. Many people do not realize that the methadone clinic is a business. Businesses are open to make money. Here in lies the biggest problem facing people who do go to these clinics. The nurses, the counselors, and the doctors that are there to help patients are actually there to keep patients coming back. Why would they want someone to quit coming to the clinic? If everyone decided to quit using methadone then they would be out of a job. I know many people who get up every morning and make it to the methadone clinic. Some of these people have tried to quit and they always go back. Most don’t even last two days without their methadone. These people have ended up trading one addiction for another. That is what methadone is, a legal addiction. People can go there everyday and get a legal high.
Besides that, regulations for methadone clinics are practically non existent. You can fail a drug test there and not have to worry about it. All that will happen to you is that they will make you come there everyday to get your methadone. You won’t be allowed to take any home with you. What is even worse is they do not care if you fail a drug test just as long as your back there the next day to get your next dose. The government needs to step in and make some serious regulations on this business.
As it stands, right now you can go to the methadone clinic for as long as you need to. There is no turning you away just as long as you can pay for your dose and to make that easier they will even let you charge a day if you don’t have the money. People go to the methadone clinic for years even decades because they are addicted to the methadone. Their bodies won’t let them quit. They start suffering withdraw symptoms within the first 48 hours. So back to the methadone clinic they go. No one will help you detox if they know you are on methadone. You have to go to a specialized institution to detox off methadone.
The government can step in and ban the sell of prescription drugs, ban the use of marijuana, they even tell you where you can and can’t smoke today. But what are they doing for the growing methadone problem? Very little. More and more people are dying every day because of methadone. But let me be clear it is not just the methadone that is killing them. These people are mixing methadone with other drugs such as Xanax, Valium, Percocet, OxyContin, etc. The drug tests done at these methadone clinics show up these other drugs. Yet nothing is done about the fact that these people are abusing other drugs that interact with methadone causing a lethal combination. The government should step in and implement a system for checking this so called business. A system that would allow them to check the drug screens of each individual. Those individuals that cannot pass three drug screens should be eliminated from the program. The government should also make it mandatory to drug test each individual at least twice a week. I also believe that a set time limit for methadone maintenance should be implemented. Every two weeks the patient should be made to come down a minimum of two milligrams of methadone. This means that a patient starting out at 50 mg will be completely off the methadone in a little under a year. By implementing this system the government would decrease the patients who abuse methadone and would help those who need the methadone without making them methadone addicts.”
Something WAS done. The responsible party is in jail.
Chris Williams says
You are correct WATCHER, but the key there is that Ms. Albers did not do this alone. The methadone clinic was the one responsible for giving her the daily dose of methadone while they knew she was also taking other drugs that interact with methadone. I am surprised Ms. Albers has not filed suit against the MATT clinic herself.
As to saying the methadone clinic did nothing wrong, I just did a quick search on the internet and A LOT of people thought the same thing as others on the dagger, the methadone clinic is just doing a job. This is obviously an ongoing problem since MANY SUPREME COURTS have ruled that YES methadone clinics are responsible for public safety. This is going to get very interesting.
curious one says
In the interest of fairness, How do we know that Ms Albers took the other drugs before she was urine tested? IF she took them just before or after her dose of methadone, Then I would think that she is the only culpable party.
There are many people who take combinations of drugs, some prescribed by their Drs and then take other substances w/o their Dr’s knowlege. Does that make the Dr responsible?
Many medications have warning labels that patients do not heed- Xanex for one, all by itself, can cause impairment. Is the prescribing Dr accountable for the patient’s misuse?
I am terribly saddened by the loss of this innocent life, but hopefully the matter will be fully investigated and responsibility fairly determined.
As for Ms. Wolf’s comments- I think it is important to be educated about the addiction and pain management treatments that are available, including efficacy, facts and concerns. I thank her and Native for the information and it is probable that much knowlege and truth are reflected in both of their comments.
Robert DiCocco says
I met with Aaron from the Dagger yesterday at my home. I gave him the police investigation reports as well as the States Attorney investigation. The information shows that Ms. Albers ADMITTED taking Zanax before her methadone dosing and she had been WARNED for MONTHS from the clinic to stop mixing the drugs and she even signed paperwork knowing the effects of mixing the drugs. She REPEATEDLY FAILED NUMEROUS drug urine tests. The latest was 1 month BEFORE the accident, BUT THE CLINIC STILL GAVE HER THE DAILY DOSE OF METHADONE REGARDLESS OF THE URINE TESTS!!!!! NO DOSE DISPENSES NO $$$$$. There lies your flaw in the way these clinics operate. If the clinic kept seeing the failed urine tests and DID NOT GIVE ALBERS HER METHADONE MY MOM WOULD STILL BE ALIVE!!!! ENOUGH SAID!!
Native, while the experiences you may have had lead you to believe what you do about addicts and treatment methods, those methods simply don’t work for many, many people. Yes, you can help an addict by giving them a different drug. Ask the addicts whose lives are changed for the better because of opioid maintenance treatment.
It is interesting to me that you rail against the for for-profit methadone clinics and buprenorphine subscribers while at the same time promoting and encouraging various rehabilitation programs that can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars with extremely low rates of success.
Mr. DiCocco, what a shame. Any patient on methadone knows the dangers of benzos mixed with their daily dose. That she made the choice to ingest alprazolam following methadone is completely unacceptable and reckless of her. I’m sorry your family has to pay for her poor choices.
I’m very curious to know if MATT was aware of her alprazolam habit, assuming she had one. Regardless of their role here, I would hate to see methadone maintenance become less accessible to those who choose it for the right reasons.
Robert DiCocco says
Court records will show that the MATT program WAS aware of her taking Xanax on a regular basis to get the higher high. Court records will also show that she failed numerous urine test they gave her, but they still dispensed the methadone. They even went as far as warning her of the interactions and what could happen if she keeps mixing the drugs. Both parties signed the paper. NOW the fact of the matter is who is the responsible party here. Someone who is trying to get off of drugs, long history of drugs or the clinic who is supposed to be helping. The clinic should have taken precautions once seeing her urine tests keep failing, NO METHADONE. Plain and simply. If this was done my Mom would still be here.
Just to set the record straight we are not out to STOP methadone treatment clinics. There just needs to be a better way to regulate the dosing regimens and help people titrate OFF methadone dependency. Just like everything else, I have read very positive stories and I have read nightmares. YES I do not know how it is to be addicted to something such as drugs, but if we can make it safer for both the clinics and the TRUE patients that are TRULY seeking help, I feel that my Moms death was a wake up call that I hope helps A LOT of people.
Whoops, it took me most of the day to notice your post, Robert. I appreciate you taking the time to clarify things as thoroughly as you did. You’ve made things more clear and provided more detail than the original article here!
If courts records show (as you said they did, and I certainly don’t doubt you) that the clinic was aware of her Xanax use and continued to dose her, MATT ought to see some repercussions for sure, and policies need to be implemented that are actually enforced to prevent similar tragedies from occurring. MATT administering and having knowledge of various failed urine drug screenings and keeping her on as a client has to be absolutely infuriating to you. My gosh.
It isn’t much of a stretch to assume she obtained Xanax illicitly, but if the drug was indeed prescribed to her, I wonder if the prescriber was aware she was a methadone patient.
I must say, however, that in learning more about this case and reading past Dagger articles, I don’t have a picture of Ms. Albers being a woman trying to improve her life and distance herself from crime and/or drug use. It doesn’t appear that she’s ever been an upstanding citizen, unfortunately.
I sincerely hope your family sees some justice in this civil case. It would be great to see precedent set whereby opioid replacement therapy can be accessible, effective and safe for the both patients and the general public.
My husband is currently on Methadone and he abuses it. He makes excuses for it and he even shares it with his dad who is the one who got him hooked on pills at age 16! He is spending 500.00+ a month on maintenance. Some days I just want to report him but it does no good to do so. I wish he would just get help. There needs to be stricter laws with these private clinics because it ruins lives. The Dicocco family is right on the money. We live in MD and there were times my husband ran out from taking too much and the clinic did nothing but make him come in every single day for four months. They call it a “diversion program” he is often paranoid if he loses his job how will he be able to pay for it.
He tried to detox once upon a time and they gave him suboxone and it made him feel like he was on speed he said. This stuff just like all drugs are ruining lives and marriages and it is a shame some of these clinics would continue to make a profit off of another’s person suffering and addiction.
My son was going to a for profit clinic for a year. He passed away from an overdose of methadone after going to the clinic. During the time he was a client there, they put him on “financial detox” because his insurance didn’t pay yet. We found ourselves taking a night job and scrambling to come up with the $283 per week even though they knew he had coverage. They encouraged him to go on state aide. Then they aggressively increased his dose regardless of what was in his system.
I will say up until he got the ‘guaranteed’ state aid, he was doing well, was getting his life together very well. But this money hungry clinic did not use proper patient care. They did not do necessary blood work, they didn’t even notice the overdose symptoms even though he was going there every morning and saw a counselor twice a week! This is a situation where the clinic only cares about the money and not patient care. The regulations are supposedly stiff, however, nothing much happens when they don’t follow the rules.
As for waiting lists, I had taken my son to several different clinics in the area and NOT 1 had a waiting list. They welcomed him with open arms. I agree that more regulation is needed with these private clinics.
“For Profit” is exactly what many of these addiction recovery clinics are. There is no regard for the patient or the family or friends of the patient. It’s all about getting the money so they can prescribe the prescription for the addict. Often they do not test the patients in between 28 day visits even if a family or friend suspects they are selling their prescription. Suboxone is now sold on the street by some that receive it through a legitimate prescription from an unscrupulous addiction recovery center. In many cases, these clinics are not subject to State Oversight.
Theresa, it sounds like your husband is choosing to abuse and misuse the very drug he turned to for help. Him going every day after being caught short on doses is their way of being sure he’s not selling or sharing what he is permitted to take home in order to prevent diversion. When you say the clinic did nothing but make him come in daily for 4 months, they actually did do something – prevent him from sharing or selling his methadone dose.
When a person finds themselves receiving methadone maintenance, ideally they abide by the idea that it is indeed maintenance. It should never be a replacement for street drugs, a backup plan for when there are more days in the month than pills in the bottle, a drug to abuse, a drug to share with others, etc. Abusing a maintenance drug meant to stabilize a patient usually leads to a bad outcome because there’s not much of anywhere else to go at that point.
If your husband went from methadone to Suboxone in an attempt to detox, I hope he did so under the care of a knowledgable medical professional. Not all physicians licensed to prescribe Suboxone know enough about it, unfortunately, and they are doing a huge disservice to addicts who need help. Your husband would have needed to taper slowly to a relatively low and be well into withdrawal for a proper induction of Suboxone. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Suboxone feeling like an amphetamine, considering it is an buprenorphine and naloxone.
Wendy, I am so sorry you have lost your son. As a mom, I cannot imagine the hurt you must feel. I have never heard of a methadone clinic continuing to increase a patient’s dose if that patient is reporting to be stable and comfortable. Was your son able to express that he was being dosed too much and feeling the CNS effects of this? Again, I am sorry for your loss.
Native, I never mentioned anything about a “light addiction”, not sure why that’s addressed to me. An addiction is an addiction. There are addicts whose tolerance requires a massive dose of opioids to remain stable, while others are comfortable at much smaller doses, but both are still addicts. I don’t want to speak for the person who made the “light addiction” comment, but perhaps this is the same idea he/she intended.
Ideally, there would be some balance between methadone maintenance offered by good clinics continuing to be readily available to those who need it and act responsibly, while at the same time, weeding out those who become a danger to others or themselves due to their poor choices.
In no way do I blame family members for the outrage they feel because of this or similar situations. I hope that sentiment remains clear in my replies here.
Bren ONeal says
My deepest sympathy to the DiCocco family I am so deeply sorry for your great loss.Unfortunately, it would be hard to find any MMT Clinic that is enforcing the rules and guidelines in the United States. Robert, you hit the nail on the head it is a business and it’s all about the money.We lost our 33 y/o daughter on April 5, 2006 due to a negligent doctor who prescribed her Methadone as pain medication.I’ve spent the past 6 years helping grieving Mothers who have lost their adult children to Methadone Deaths. Methadone is a highly addictive dangerous and frequently fatal drug. All that is needed is a DEA number to open a Clinic and that DEA number Does Not mean you will receive professional care. Methadone is about Greed while keeping the patients dosage increased and strung out as many years as possible.Twenty years is not uncommon. I am proud of the DiCocco family for seeking justice and wanting to change the Maryland Law.Visit http://www.stopmethadonedeaths.com as we bring awareness and help educate the public the Truth Behind Methadone. Sign the Petition you may help save a life.
Concerned Citizen says
All I can say is wow. To the DiCocco family, I am so sorry for your loss. To the pain clinics …shame on you. My father is elderly with back problems. He is 78 yearsmold and addicted to pain meds. He thinks he needs the medicine because it is prescribed BY HIS PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER. He is from the generation that does not question the doctor. My hands are tied and he has made his own life, my mother’s life and my life miserable. He says if the doctor did not think he needed the pain med SHE would not prescribe it to him. We have tried to talk to the doctor, but she will not speak to us because of HIPPA laws. SHAME on anyone prescribing this medicine. NO more than 15 should be dispensed at a time and if someone needs more than that it should be questioned. I WISH THAT POS DRIVER would rot in hell. She deserves nothing more for what she did. I also hope the clinic pays out the nose.
The Harford County Health Department does not despense Methadone they contract out to the MATT Clinc and do urinalysis test every client they refer there.
The Harford County Health Department does not despense Methadone. They contract out to the MATT Clinic and do urinalysis test every client they refer there.
I know a few people that goes to Serenity in Aberdeen that not only do they use the Methadone a very high dose (120 to 150mg)daily but goes in drunk r they are still high off of Coke n tHey still get dosed I can’t believe they do that just 12 dollars per day the owner Nancy knows these ppls habbit n still does nothing to stop it WHY for the $$$$$$ that’s the only thing the care about, the clinics were open to help ppl to come off of drugs a short time use only but instead they (onwers) just keep increasing n increasing each person they start off with 20mg n within a month there at 120mg a friend is on that n I refuse to ride with her after she’s dosed y you ask BC she’s nodding off r running off the roads the state really needs to crack down on this especially with serenity because Nancy just don’t give a shit about the people she’s dosing only the Money she’s making from it she’s just A legal DRUG DEALER the state of MarylAnd gave her the keys to sell DRUGS. We need to stand up to those ppl out of the State they r getting richer while the State supplies the drug to sell, look it up well over 25% of young Adults has Died over the meth program n Benzos. Its stupid its gone to kill many more unless someone speaks up
Just to set a few things straight here….First of all, methadone is NOT an opiate! It is a synthetic analgesic pain killer with a long half life. I have been on methadone for 12 yrs and have been at MATT clinic for 6 of them. Methadone cannot be detected with an opiod drug test. It must be tested for separately since it is not an opiate. Secondly, Ms. Albers who I do NOT know had no business taking Xanax before taking methadone except to get high. In my opinion and experience, it takes about 1hr to as long as 2 hrs for your methadone dose to take full effect, so it sounds to me that the XANAX was more to blame here, but it is always easier to point the finger at Methadone. XANAX is a central nervous system depressant which is more likely to cause inability to operate a car than Methadone. Just so everyone knows, MATT has now implemented new testing for patients who are on benzodiazipenes and a dose of Methadone above 110MG to make sure that they are not taking a higher dose of methadone than needed. Finally, I am insured, but still have to pay 20% of the cost out of pocket.
I am sorry for the DiCocco family and I know who they are. Yes this should not have happened. However, 90% of patients on Methadone would be dead including myself if it were not for this drug. Also out of this same 90% of patients, are there to become a productive member of society again and not there to get high everyday. We already jump through hoops and have our lives controlled unecessarily through the clinic. We do not need more control for everyone, just screening for those on high doses and those on other drugs that alter mood and who can’t stay clean. I have remained clean for over 8 years and still have MATT control my life. I am trying to detox, but it is a slow process.
Again I am sorry for your loss, it shouldn’t have happened, but I really don’t see this as MATT program’s fault. The driver was ultimately at fault. She knowingly tried to intoxicate herself and drive which in my opinion should be more than manslaughter!
mrs. ann says
Its sad to say the riverside clinic is the most structured and it still is not right. I’ve been there for 2 years and have first hand seen patients nosing out in the waiting area and the counslers laughing at them. I was pissed because of the exact reason you had experienced. But then my argument was with the parents taking high doses then getting into their car with their child. They still allow zanex to be taken. My fiance drives a rollback local to the clinic . If he recovers any vehicle from an accident that has methadone bottles in it he relays the name to me and I report them. There are tons of users still there they do not even watch them during a urine test. They all bring in urine,its not like they can’t tell their on other drugs.