Methadone is Twice as Deadly as Other Opiates

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Though methadone is traditionally used to treat opioid dependence, a growing number of physicians
are prescribing the powerful drug for chronic pain. As a result, fatal overdoses, child consumption, and
crippling addiction habits have become familiar headlines on the evening news.

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claims methadone is actually twice as deadly as any
other opiate medication on the market.

The CDC Findings

According to the data gathered by the CDC, methadone makes up less than 2 percent of all opiate
prescriptions written in the US. Despite the low percentage, more than 5,000 people die each
year as a result of methadone overdose. In fact, from 1999 to 2009, methadone-related deaths in the US
grew six fold.

The Methadone Market

The CDC’s report also states the number of fatal methadone overdoses reached its peak in 2007.
Coincidentally, sales of the drug also peaked that year. Later in 2010, methadone made up between 4.5
and 18.5 percent of all opiate medications distributed by state.

Opiate Deaths

Over the course of one year, the CDC specifically looked at opiate pain reliever deaths in a total of 13
states. Methadone was involved in 31.4 percent of those deaths, but accounted for 39.8 percent of
single opiate deaths.

Improper Use

Data gathered by both the CDC and the FDA also seems to suggest that some patients are
inappropriately receiving methadone for pain management. For example, 46 percent of all methadone
prescriptions were dispensed for musculoskeletal pain, with back pain being the number one diagnosis.
However, back pain is a relative complaint and fairly difficult for a physician to confirm.

Methadone Pros

  • A long lasting opiate medication
  • Methadone is affordable
  • Keeps opiate withdrawal symptoms and cravings at bay
  • Decreases IV drug use and the transmission of other associated diseases
  • Methadone is legal
  • Offered in liquid and wafer formulations for oral use

Methadone Cons

  • Unpredictable half-life can lead to toxic levels in the body
  • Undesirable side effects, including “brain fog,” weight gain, sexual side effects, lack of energy
    and general body aches
  • Methadone is physically addictive and requires daily administration
  • Combining methadone with certain medications increase the risk of death.

If you or someone you know struggles with methadone addiction, please consider methadone addiction treatment centers in your area.

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