Dealing drugs the legal way 

Methadone clinics were supposed to save people from the ravages of heroin addiction. Why, then, did five people die here last year of methadone-related causes? And why isn't the state bothering to regularly inspect clinics?

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On the morning of January 12, 2000, Albert Kenneth Phillips' mother peeked at her dozing son, who'd been lying in bed for most of three days. She had been sick with the flu the week before, so she figured Albert had caught her bug. She woke him and asked if he'd been up earlier that morning to take his medicine. He hadn't, which was unusual.

She got him out of bed. He fell on the floor. He got up and stumbled in search of his shoes. She found him a pair and asked her other son to drive him up the street. They left. A few minutes later she heard a siren.

Phillips, 50, had collapsed outside the methadone clinic he'd visited almost every day for 10 years. He was pronounced dead an hour later at Grady Memorial Hospital.

It was likely a different kind of death from Chris Brackett's, who reportedly died after that second dose of methadone.

The autopsy listed Phillips' cause of death as accidental methadone poisoning, same as Brackett's. But Phillips didn't take methadone on the day he died, at least not at the clinic. Taken a day earlier, the methadone could have crept up on him.

Or it could be that the decade of treatment slowly killed Phillips.

From watching her son's evolving addiction, a mother has her own opinion.

"What I'm thinking it was, kind of like with alcohol poisoning, was that maybe the methadone built up over the years," the 72-year-old woman says. "I don't blame the methadone clinic. But I'm sure it was killing him. If they stay on it so long, I think it's really harmful to all of them."

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