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Methadone Maintenance For Elephants?

Methadone is sometimes used to help people overcome intense addictions to opiates, but using Methadone to treat opiate addicted Elephants? Now that's a whole different story.
by K. Lanktree Modified: August 4, 2014 at 6:34 pm •  Published: August 4, 2014

Conservationists in China are celebrating the newly found sobriety of four Asian Elephants rescued from the dangerous Triad drug gang after successfully treating them using the well-known opiate addiction medication Methadone.

They had been seized by police on different occasions over the past nine years and brought to Wild Elephant Valley, a protected area in China's southwestern Yunnan Province and home to 250 other wild elephants. Not long after their arrival, the Elephants became uncontrollable, displaying aggression and restlessness. Given the animals origins with the regions drug gangs, staff at the reserve decided to run drug tests on the obviously distressed animals. The results gave some insight as to what was behind the animals’ behavior.

These particular elephants had heroin in their system.

Hold up. How exactly did these Elephants end up getting their trunks on heroin laced bananas in the first place?

The regions drug gangs use these mammoth creatures as powerful aids in heroin smuggling operations between the China and Myanmar border. In order to make the animals easier to train and obey orders, gangs resort to feeding them heroin laced bananas. The innocent Elephants quickly become addicted to the drug infused bananas, allowing the gang members to maintain control over by either supplying or withholding the animals’ next fix.

How much Methadone does it take to properly treat and wean an Elephant off heroin-laced bananas?

According Chen Jiming, who has worked with the Elephants at the Wild Elephant Valley in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the Asian Elephant breeding center in China's southwest province of Yunnan, their appetite for opiates far exceeds that of humans.

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by K. Lanktree
NewsOK Contributor
K. Lanktree is a Freelance Writer, Former IV Drug User, Methadone Patient & Harm Reduction Advocate. She is dedicated to reducing the stigma and discrimination of Addiction and IV Drug Users through education, writing and poetry.
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