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Methadone detox a clear solution to skyrocketing mortality
Statistics reveal that deaths across America from methadone are much higher – “substantially higher” is the official terminology – than from all other opioids, including street drugs and prescription drugs. Although methadone detox programs have helped many people recover from dependence and avoid fatal overdoses, thousands of others haven’t been so fortunate.
Look at these numbers:
- In 1999, roughly 800 people died from methadone toxicity
- In 2008, just nine years later, that number exploded to 4,900 – a 600 percent increase.
This scandalous rise in methadone-related deaths directly parallels the dramatic increases in two rapidly expanding medical practices:
- Prescribing methadone for chronic pain
- Prescribing methadone as a “treatment” for opioid addiction
In both practices – treating chronic pain and treating addiction – the dangerous characteristics of methadone have been well known. So if the dangers were known, what happened?
Some of the answers are contained in the new, updated “Clinical Practice Guideline on Methadone Safety” just published by the American Pain Society (APS). This detailed document was prepared by dozens of experts after reviewing more than 3,700 scientific abstracts. It appears that medical training simply skipped a lot of really necessary data that could have prevented the methadone catastrophe.
The purpose of the Guide is “to provide evidence-based recommendations for use of methadone in persons of all ages for treatment of chronic pain in primary care or specialty settings, or for use in licensed opioid addiction treatment programs.” In other words, try to figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t keep happening in the future.
Here are some major recommendations:
- A thorough patient history, review of medical records, electrocardiogram and physical exam is essential before starting methadone treatment
- Clinicians should counsel patients about the potential risks for methadone to affect heart rhythm and depress breathing
- Clinicians should consider buprenorphine as an alternative to methadone for opioid addiction patients with certain heart rhythm problems
- Methadone should be started at the lowest possible dose and increased very slowly
- Patients treated for opioid addiction should undergo urine drug testing before starting methadone and at regular intervals during treatment
The good news is that “measures can be taken to promote safer use of methadone”, says the APS. We can only hope that these recommendations will be adopted by the thousands of state and local health agencies involved and that the methadone death toll will begin to fall.
Of course, for the tens of thousands of American families who have already lost loved ones to poorly managed methadone treatment, these guidelines are too late, as much as a decade too late.
These heartbreaking death statistics are a lot more than just numbers. These were moms, dads, sons and daughters, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. These were real people with hopes and dreams and families and careers. They are gone, in large part, because of a careless system that skipped vital safety practices in favor of the quickest, cheapest fix possible.
Here at Novus, our job isn’t to correct this terribly flawed system. But we do have a suggestion for those countless thousands of people already dependent on methadone, or who are opioid dependent and thinking of starting a methadone replacement program. There is a better, more sensible solution.
Novus is reversing the skyrocketing methadone addictions and deaths. And we do this by delivering the most comfortable, most effective methadone detox programs in the country – even for the highest methadone dosage users. Novus gets people back home and back to their lives, drug free, in almost no time at all – that is, compared to the eternity of the alternative.
Call Novus today. We help people create new futures.
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