Rise in Methadone Deaths

Rise in Methadone Deaths

There has been a quietly increasing number of narcotic deaths related to methadone use over the last decade. Between 1999 and 2005 the number of such deaths has increased at least fivefold according to federal statisticians. The percentage increase may actually be even higher than that, however, as individual drugs in overdose cases are not always recorded or reported by the states.

There are several reasons why methadone deaths have increase so much so fast. First, overall methadone use is up. Prescribing methadone for pain management is more common, as OxyContin has become synonymous with prescription drug abuse. Second, many physicians are uninformed about proper methadone dosages, and fail to begin patients on a low enough dose. Methadone overdose is a common cause of methadone deaths. Additionally, methadone side effects can be potentially fatal even at therapeutic doses, particularly when there are concurrent diseases or heart/lung issues. Methadone is also very dangerous when mixed with other medications like sedatives and antidepressants as well as alcohol. Doctors who are unfamiliar with methadone can fail to inform patients of these dangers.

The potentially dangerous effects of methadone use, call its use as a detoxification aid drug treatment into question. Methadone withdrawal treatment programs often leave users with a methadone addiction that can continue indefinitely. Because detoxing from methadone is so difficult, many users choose to continue methadone treatment for life. This effectively trades one addiction for another. Suboxone (buprenorphine), which is much less addictive than methadone, offers an alternative to an indefinite methadone addiction. With Suboxone, opiate users can detox from their drug of choice without surrendering to another addiction.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/us/17methadone.html, http://www.fda.gov/CDER/drug/advisory/methadone.htm

Click here to return to the first part in the series, "Introduction to Methadone."

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