Lynnwood methadone clinic starts new program

LYNNWOOD — The vast majority of people treated at a methadone clinic in this town are not heroin addicts.

They’re hooked on pain pills.

Such is the case with Ryan Cahan, 29, of Lynnwood, who said he became hooked on opiate painkillers after a baseball injury in his late teens.

After 12 years of addiction, it took treatment at the Lynn­wood clinic operated by CRC Health for him to get clean, Cahan said.

“I was a very functional addict for years,” he said. Toward the end of his addiction, “I just wasn’t able to live a normal life anymore.”

Cahan told his story to guests gathered to mark the beginning of a new intensive outpatient program at the CRC Health clinic. The for-profit clinic opened in April 2004 in an office building at 18631 Alderwood Mall Parkway.

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who directed drug policy during the Clinton administration and now serves on the board for San Diego-based CRC, was on hand for the event.

“This stuff works, there’s no doubt about it,” McCaffrey said of treatment programs. “It saves huge amounts of malignancy in the community.”

The clinic opened amid controversy when CRC Health sued the city of Lynnwood for delays in approving permits for the clinic. The city argued that the clinic never went through a state review process that would have included public hearings.

The city wound up paying $340,000 to CRC Health in an out-of-court settlement.

Nearly 1,000 people have completed programs in the clinic’s 3 1/2 years, director David Newman said. The time it takes for clients to complete a program varies from a few months to the rest of their lives, depending on their addiction, he said.

The national recovery rate from opiate addiction is only 1 percent without treatment using drugs such as methadone, Newman said. With the medication, it’s about 33 percent, he said.

The clinic doesn’t have precise figures, but “I think we beat that,” he said.

About 70 percent of those treated at the clinic are hooked on pain medication, particularly OxyContin, also called oxycodone. The other 30 percent come in with heroin addictions, clinic officials said.

Methadone and other drugs used at the clinic, Buprenorphine and Soboxone, are effective only against opiate-based drug addiction, officials said.

The new treatment program, which started in mid-October with two clients and now has 12, includes group work, outpatient detoxification and in some cases medication. It will enable the clinic to treat for addictions to drugs other than opiates, said Dave Cush, regional director for CRC Health.

The clinic is one of three of its kind in Snohomish County. The state held two public hearings in 2002 to determine the need for a methadone clinic in south county. Other companies have opened methadone clinics in Everett and near Arlington, Newman said.

The state limits each clinic to serving 350 people at a time, to ensure quality care, Newman said. The Lynnwood clinic usually has a waiting list of 20 to 40 people, ranging from two to six months, he said.

“I’ve had a father offer me a lot of money to take his son today,” he said, adding that he can’t make exceptions. “It breaks my heart.”

But counties have wiggle room to adjust or lift the cap, Newman said. Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon and other officials serve with Newman on a drug task force.

“I believe they’re really looking at this,” Newman said of the cap.

While a small percentage of clients are referred to the clinic because of trouble with the law, most are self-referred, Newman said.

Clients come from all walks of life and all income levels. McCaffrey said addiction rates tend to be greater among those with higher income and higher IQs.

Among any group of people who are asked if someone close to them is addicted, “half of us in the room are going to raise a hand,” he said.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or

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