SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — People travel from all over southern Missouri for opiate addiction treatment here in Springfield. The methadone clinic in Springfield is packed with patients every morning. And although methadone is the oldest form of treatment for heroin addiction, it does not come without it’s challenges.

Springfield – Rock Hagens is hard at work in his downtown clothing store.

“Always had a dream and vision of owning my own business.”

But hanging on the walls is a collage of pictures reminding him where he started.

“By the age of 16, I had tried heroin for the very first time,” Hagen said.

He did not know he was addicted until one day he woke up with withdrawals.

“Bowel movements. Stomach cramps, sweats, had the chills.”

So he decided to try methadone treatments; medicine that eliminates those symptoms.

“It allows them to function in the community and hold a job and get their kids back so in the morning most of them are going to work,” Springfield Treatment Center Program Director Yvonda Schwartz said.

The Springfield clinic is the only methadone clinic for at least 70 miles, and people come from all over to use it.

“St. Roberts, Rolla, Lebanon, Branson, even Arkansas,” Schwartz said.

The clinic has more than 400 patients right now.

“At that therapeutic dose, they have no cravings, are able to function and can do everything like a normal person,” Schwartz said.

But it can take 30 days for a patient to reach the therapeutic dose. Relapse rates in that time frame are quite high; some reports suggesting as high as 80%. But that number is reversed once a patient is on the perfect dose.

“They’ll be about 80% more successful in getting off of all opiates all together,” Schwartz.

Rock never reached that point.

“I would drink the methadone so I wouldn’t be physically sick but I was still using heroin,” he said.

That is a dangerous abuse of the medicine that leads to thousands of deaths each year. It is something the Springfield Treatment Center works hard to prevent.

“Individuals who get take home medication…are required to participate in random call backs in which they come back and bring all of their take home medicine with them. They are subjected to a drug screen on sight. We also count the medication in their possession,” Behavioral Health Group Regional Director Marlin Martin said.

“It’s the people. A person has to really be sure with themselves that they really want to change,” Rock said.

The Springfield clinic has been so busy, Behavioral Health Group plans to open another location on the north side of town later this year.

More of our Courageous Conversations on opioid and heroin addiction can be found here.