The statistics are striking. Methadone – a drug once prescribed mostly to treat drug addiction – is now blamed for one third of the overdose deaths attributed to prescription painkillers.
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reports that researchers have found that methadone only accounts for two percent of all painkiller prescriptions written in this country. However, its involvement in over 30 percent of prescription painkiller overdose deaths is cause for concern, the agency said.
Million of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers are handed out every year in the U.S. Drugs such as OxyContin have become synonymous with abuse and addiction. And for years, patients have been lining up at Methadone clinics across the country for opiate replacement therapy. This treatment uses the opiate Methadone as a substitute for other drugs deemed more dangerous.
But increasingly, Methadone is being prescribed for pain. Experts attribute Methadone as a painkiller for the alarming increases. The agency reports that six times as many people died from methadone overdose in 2009 than in 1999.
The CDC’s Vital Signs report says that more than 15,500 people die in the U.S. every year from prescription painkiller overdoses. For some people, it happens innocently enough. They may accidentally take too much of their prescription medication. Others who abuse the stuff are at a much higher risk for opiate overdose.
The Availability Of Methadone Increases Risks For Patients
The CDC says Methadone is being prescribed more and more for things like back pain, despite Methadone risk warnings from the U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Another issue worth noting is that Methadone is available as a generic drug, so the cost is lower, making it cheaper for those on tight budgets. Because of this, insurance companies often list it as a preferred option.
The CDC says the danger with Methadone comes down to dosage. The difference between a dangerous dosage and a prescribed dosage is small, the agency reports. Also, taking it more than three times a day can lead to a build up in the system and dangerously slower respiration. Other risks include disruption of the heart rhythm.
Dependence, Overdose Are Possible Outcomes If Methadone Is Misused
Despite its use as a treatment for opiate addiction, Methadone can also be habit forming. Some people get hooked after prolonged use and may need detox to come off the drug. Many people who’ve been through Methadone addiction say it’s one of the hardest drugs to detox from.
Misuse and abuse of Methadone is also very problematic. Drugs in this class depress the central nervous system, so mixing Methadone with other opiates is not encouraged because of possible overdose. Other CNS depressants include alcohol, benzodiazepines such as Klonopin and Valium, muscle relaxers and sedative/hypnotics. Mixing these substances can cause patients to stop breathing, possibly leading to death.
The CDC says health care providers, insurance companies and patients can all take steps to insure safety when Methadone is prescribed. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/vitalsigns/methadoneoverdoses.