A new report states that six times as many people died of methadone overdoses in 2009 as died in 1999 and four in ten overdose deaths involving single prescription painkillers involved methadone, twice as many as any other prescription painkiller.
A study by CDC Vital Signs and report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that the opioid pain reliever, methadone, was involved in more than 30 percent of prescription painkiller overdose deaths, yet as little as 2% of painkiller prescriptions in the United States in 2009 were for this drug.
The report was compiled from data gathered 1999-2010 from 13 states being covered by a surveillance system for drug-related deaths and states that more than 15,500 people die every year of prescription drug overdoses, and nearly one-third of those overdoses involve the drug methadone.
Methadone named on many insurance companies preferred drug lists, is available as a low-cost generic drug. It has been used for decades to treat drug addiction, but in the last few years has been commonly prescribed as a pain killer especially for chronic back problems. Taking Methadone 3 times or more daily can cause a build up of the drug in the system and it has been known to interfere with breathing and heart rate.
Chronic pain has reached epidemic proportions
More than 4 million methadone prescriptions were written in the US for pain in 2009.
CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. is quoted as saying:
Deaths from opioid overdose have increased four-fold in the past decade, and methadone now accounts for nearly a third of opioid-associated deaths. Methadone used for heroin substitution treatment does not appear to be a major part of this problem. However, the amount of methadone prescribed to people in pain has increased dramatically. There are many safer alternatives to methadone for chronic non-cancer pain.
The report states that the US government is:
• Enforcing federal laws to prevent nonmedical use of methadone.
• Educating health care providers and consumers about the correct use of methadone.
• Tracking prescription drug overdose trends and the impact of efforts to stop overdoses.