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Va. Woman Jailed for Taking Methadone on Advice from Doctor 8/23/2004
Kimberly Bucklin of Tazewell, Va., was sentenced to three years in prison for following her doctor's advice to take methadone to treat an OxyContin addiction. The judge in the case had prohibited Bucklin from taking methadone while on probation for drug possession, the Roanoke Times reported Aug. 21.
Bucklin's case was reopened at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union and drug-treatment advocates, who called on Judge Henry Vanover to reconsider his decision.
"It really, really is a medical decision and not a legal decision," said Bucklin's attorney, Tom Scott.
Testifying as an expert witness, Dr. Robert Newman, director of the Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, said methadone is an effective treatment for opium-based addictions.
Last year, after Bucklin was charged with child abuse and OxyContin possession, she became a methadone patient at the Life Center's satellite clinic in Tazewell County. "I would say her response was dramatic, positive, and very rapid," said Newman.
In June 2003, Bucklin was ordered to discontinue all use of methadone as a condition of her probation and a six-year suspended prison sentence. But after Bucklin began suffering cravings and withdrawal symptoms, the clinic resumed her treatment on the advice of her doctor.
Tazewell County Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Lee said judges often prohibit individuals on probation from taking methadone at a clinic. But Bucklin is the first person in the county to be sentenced to prison for violating such an order.
Mark Parrino, president of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, said it's wrong for methadone patients to be sent to prison for a treatment that is aimed at helping them beat their addiction. "Despite the fact that the federal government has spent millions in research to determine that methadone is the gold standard for treating opioid dependence, you still have what I would call unenlightened and misinformed representatives of the law-enforcement community," Parrino said.