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Greensboro, North Carolina

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Patient Dies While in the Care of State-Run Drug Treatment Center

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Methadone is an opiate prescribed to patients coping with the withdrawal symptoms of heroin. Though it is a controversial and addictive drug, methadone treatment has been used widely in the United States for over thirty years as a way for people to overcome heroin addiction. Narcotics Treatment Programs (NTPs) are the most highly regulated form of medicine practiced in the country, as they are subject to federal, state, and local regulation. Despite the extensive guidelines and well-known dangers that come with methadone treatment, some people continue to overlook the risks involved when methadone is prescribed to help someone suffering from heroin withdrawal and recovery.

A doctor at R.J. Blackley Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center, a state-run drug institution in Butler, North Carolina, reportedly failed to confirm Jeffrey Harbin’s condition before giving him the dose of methadone that contributed to his death.

Though Harbin claimed to be experiencing heroin withdrawal and was given a dose of methadone when he checked in to the facility on August 13, 2009, the results of a urine test showed otherwise.

Harbin’s urine test revealed that he had traces of cocaine and marijuana in his system. Methadone—already a dangerous drug—is lethal when combined with cocaine.

Federal regulators say that when the treatment center gave Harbin methadone, they failed to follow basic procedures for administering the drug to a patient, reports new-record.com. Regulators claim the doctor did not wait for the urine sample test results, nor were the results reviewed before increasing the patient’s methadone.

During the early hours of August 14, 2009, Harbin was found unconscious—not by a medical care provider, but by another patient—with blood trickling from his mouth and nose. He never woke up.

An autopsy report confirmed that Harbin had twice the lethal level of methadone in his blood.

Due to the tragic and potentially preventable death of Jeffrey Harbin—in addition to other major violations—the Blackley Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center is in jeopardy of losing federal funding. Regulators have declared that other patients were also at risk for improper treatment at the facility.