Prescription Drug Addiction: Methadone Is The No. 1 Killer

The heroin-like painkiller methadone is the fastest-growing cause of narcotic deaths, according to federal government statistics, and ranks high among drugs implicated in the soaring rates of prescription drug addiction across the country.

Methadone, which for decades has been used to replace heroin as an addiction treatment, now causes more than twice as many deaths as heroin itself. And because it is potent and long-lasting, and far less expensive than other prescription painkillers, it has become more and more popular among family physicians and other health care providers who hand it out for all kinds of chronic pain.

Methadone Is Particularly Complex and Deadly

But the problem, say experts, is that doctors are not sufficiently educated in narcotics, and methadone is particularly complex and deadly. No two people respond to methadone in the same way, so where one patient might seem okay, another can die on the same dosage. And if it doesn’t kill the patient, it can rapidly lead to dependence and wind up in a full-blown, life-altering prescription drug addiction.

In some areas of the country, methadone deaths now surpass deaths from oxycodone painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet and hydrocodone painkillers such as Vicodin and Lortab. But whereas the majority of deaths from these other narcotic painkillers come from illicit abuse of the drugs, nearly half of all deaths from methadone result from taking methadone “as directed” on legitimate prescriptions.

Labeling directions for methadone were dangerously incorrect for decades, and were not updated until late 2006, long after thousands of cases of prescription drug addiction and death were reported. The FDA, woefully lax in dealing with physicians’ ignorance about the using the drug properly, failed to recognize the dangers that more widespread prescribing could bring about. Since the new labeling information is only partially helpful, the FDA may require doctors to take special classes on prescribing narcotics and methadone in particular.

If you or someone you know is suffering from methadone addiction or abuse, please call now and help save a life.

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Despite the Alarming Statistics Methadone Prescriptions Continue to Increase

According to the DEA, from 1998 to 2006 the number of methadone prescriptions have increased by 700 percent, inundating parts of the country where it had rarely been seen. Shipments of methadone across the country from manufacture through commercial distribution channels, which are tracked by the DEA, increased by 500 percent.

The result has been massive increases in methadone-related deaths, which the feds say increased even more than the shipments. In Utah, where prescription drug addiction is a state-wide epidemic, supplies of methadone shipping into the state increased six-fold in the five years between 1997 and 2002, but deaths from methadone increased 15-fold.

In Florida, where prescription drug addiction is also ravaging the population, meticulously-kept death statistics reveal that methadone deaths more than doubled in a space of just four years, jumping from 367 deaths in 2003 to 785 deaths in 2007.

It’s clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that methadone, in spite of its perceived power to help relieve serious chronic pain, is not the ideal solution. The FDA needs to assign a higher priority to getting America’s physicians into advanced education classes on narcotics.

Find out how methadone detox at Florida’s Novus Medical Detox Center helps people achieve a drug-free life.

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