Methadone tied to one-third of prescription painkiller deaths
July 3rd, 2012
02:44 PM ET

Methadone tied to one-third of prescription painkiller deaths

If you are not grappling with cancer-related pain, you probably should not be taking prescription methadone

That is the message spiraling out of startling statistics suggesting using methadone inappropriately is linked to one-third of prescription painkiller overdose deaths.

Methadone accounted for a mere 2% of prescriptions in 2009, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that spans 10 years and 13 states, but was responsible for 30% of prescription painkiller deaths. 

"Methadone is riskier than other opiates for treating non-cancer pain," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, who added that there is limited scientific evidence it works for chronic non-cancer pain. "It should only be used for pain when other drugs haven't been effective."

Frieden distinguished between methadone that is used to treat addiction to heroin, for example, and the increased use of prescription methadone as a first-resort for treating chronic pain.

It appears that some methadone deaths may be traced back to the 4 million prescriptions written for the drug each year in the United States. But according to the CDC report, "Studies using medical examiner data suggested... that most persons who overdosed were using it without a prescription."

And while there has not been a dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions written for methadone over the years, the overdose rate from 1999 to 2009 increased about six-fold.

CDC data do not characterize how methadone overdose deaths occur, but it is known that prescription opiates can depress the functioning of the central nervous system. Taking too much methadone - or mixing it with other CNS-depressants like oxycodonehydrocodone or even alcohol - could effectively stop breathing. 

"(Methadone) acts differently in different people's bodies," said Frieden.  "They take a small amount but it could last days in their bodies and cause serious problems."

What can be confusing for patients taking the drug is that methadone is long-acting - it tends to linger in the body. That means that after the pain-relief wears off, the drug could still be circulating in someone's system. Patients get into trouble when similar-acting drugs are also introduced during this time.

But methadone can also be deadly alone. According to this week's CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, methadone accounted for about 40% of  single-drug opioid deaths.

The risk of overdose is higher when methadone is first prescribed, if the dose is increased, or if your doctor recently switched you to methadone from another medication, according to consumer information about the drug posted on the National Institutes of Health website.

Methadone may owe its status as a preferred painkiller to the fact that it's cheaper than other prescription opiates, according to Frieden.  But cheap does not equal effective.

"Using methadone for pain is pennywise and pound foolish," said Frieden.

"The societal costs of saving a dollar or two from a pill," in terms of deaths, addiction and other problems, he added, "are just too great."

Some solutions to the prescription opiate problem may lie in actions already being undertaken by some states, including prescription drug monitoring programs.

And the onus is also on doctors, according to the CDC's most recent Vital Signs report.

"Providers should use methadone as an analgesic only for conditions where benefit outweighs risk to patients and society," according to the report.  "Methadone and other extended-release opioids should not be used for mild pain, acute pain, 'breakthrough' pain, or on an as-needed basis."

soundoff (320 Responses)
  1. copy breitling aeromarine chrono superocean

    673609 99186Currently it seems like BlogEngine is the best blogging platform out there appropriate now. (from what Ive read) Is that what youre using on your weblog? 420643

    April 1, 2021 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. FbshEncox

    https://thesisacloud.com/ – online thesis help thesis consulting thesis for dummies research thesis

    April 3, 2021 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. AbgcEncox

    https://thesiswritingtob.com/ – thesiswritingtob.com writing thesis paper thesiswritingtob.com what is thesis in writing

    April 7, 2021 at 04:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. covid-19 thailand

    602600 743682An fascinating dialogue is value comment. I feel that its best to write extra on this matter, it might not be a taboo subject nevertheless normally people are not enough to speak on such topics. Towards the next. Cheers 152910

    April 19, 2021 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. BbdfMile

    womens viagra pill https://gensitecil.com/ max dose of viagra

    April 22, 2021 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. LhdvZisse

    cialis free offer https://asciled.com/ how to cut 20mg. cialis

    April 23, 2021 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. LrbsEncox

    viagra vs levitra vs cialis levitra online pharmacy levitra side effects medications

    April 24, 2021 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. AbdgEncox

    Zestril https://canadianeve21.com/ Malegra DXT

    April 24, 2021 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. BbdfMile

    viagra and high blood pressure https://gensitecil.com/ – viagra ingredients viagra experiences first time

    April 25, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LhdvZisse

    cialis black without prescription http://asciled.com/ cialis in las vegas

    April 26, 2021 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. GvdbCrulk

    research tadalafil https://boxtadafil.com/ liquid tadalafil citrate dosage

    April 26, 2021 at 04:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RfvbZisse

    cheap genieric cialis https://cileve.com/ best price cialis gen

    April 26, 2021 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. FbsfEncox

    Dostinex https://uspharmus.com/ – Seroquel antibiotics

    April 26, 2021 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. LrbsEncox

    levitra interactions http://uslevitraanna.com/ levitra free sample

    April 26, 2021 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. GvdbCrulk

    tadalafil warnings http://boxtadafil.com/ tadalafil bph

    April 26, 2021 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. JbsdEncox

    canada drugs direct canadian pharmacy kingcanadian viagra Zestoretic

    April 27, 2021 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JbsdEncox

    Careprost canadian drug store prescription drugs online without

    April 27, 2021 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RfvbZisse

    genuine cialis no prescription http://cileve.com/ 365 drug cialis

    April 27, 2021 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. FbsfEncox

    Viagra with Dapoxetine https://uspharmus.com/ Diltiazem

    April 27, 2021 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. AbdgEncox

    cheap drugs online https://canadianeve21.com/ online pharmacy drugstore

    April 27, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LhdvZisse

    blood pressure on cialis http://asciled.com/ cialis where can i buy

    April 30, 2021 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. BbdfMile

    viagra in stores http://gensitecil.com/ – viagra from india female viagra

    May 2, 2021 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. LrbsEncox

    what is levitra used for https://uslevitraanna.com/ levitra dosage reviews

    May 2, 2021 at 05:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. AbdgEncox

    canada pharmacy online http://canadianeve21.com/ reputable canadian mail order pharmacies

    May 3, 2021 at 01:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. LhdvZisse

    cialis https://asciled.com/ mexico cialis

    May 3, 2021 at 03:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. BbshMile

    viagra pill http://loxviagra.com/ viagra original use

    May 3, 2021 at 06:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. LbsoZisse

    cialis no prescription https://ucialisdas.com/ – buy cialis with dapoxetine in canada cialis for sale in toronto

    May 4, 2021 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. LebnEncox

    pharm canadian pharmacy drugs online general health

    May 5, 2021 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. BbshMile

    online viagra http://loxviagra.com/ – can you buy viagra online mexican viagra

    May 5, 2021 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. GtnbCrulk

    roman viagra review https://jokviagra.com/ marley generics viagra

    May 6, 2021 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. AnooEncox

    recetas medicas de viagra https://llviagra.com/ viagra laden

    May 6, 2021 at 06:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. https://taichinhnguyenle.com.vn

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do
    it for you? Plz reply as I'm looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.

    May 6, 2021 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. GtnbCrulk

    viagra vs cialis forum http://jokviagra.com/ viagra for men price

    May 6, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. LbsoZisse

    cialis lion http://ucialisdas.com/ cialis low prices

    May 7, 2021 at 05:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. FmrfEncox

    cialis price walmart https://cialisee.com/ cheap brand cialis 20 mg

    May 7, 2021 at 08:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RebfZisse

    indian cialis https://rcialisgl.com/ cialis 20 mg online usa

    May 7, 2021 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. LebnEncox

    best drugstore foundation for dry skin pharmacy tech canada pharmaceuticals online

    May 7, 2021 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. JebgEncox

    tops pharmacy Tetracycline canadian pharmacy no rx needed

    May 8, 2021 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. RebfZisse

    cialis generic https://rcialisgl.com/ best prices on cialis online

    May 8, 2021 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. JebgEncox

    gastro health http://pharmacylo.com/ Fincar

    May 8, 2021 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. FmrfEncox

    cialis next day delivery http://cialisee.com/ – brand cialis sale female cialis online

    May 8, 2021 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. AnooEncox

    what if a 20 year old takes viagra http://llviagra.com/ – viagra natural mundo verde what viagra used for

    May 9, 2021 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Chanel Aagaard

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these Second Life websites and blogs


    May 10, 2021 at 04:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. BbshMile

    viagra online pharmacy https://loxviagra.com/ viagra online india

    May 10, 2021 at 06:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Emil Ghent

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though


    May 11, 2021 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. LbsoZisse

    free cialis canada http://ucialisdas.com/ overnight cialis

    May 11, 2021 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. AnooEncox

    viagra to panda https://llviagra.com/ – venta de pastillas viagra usos del viagra en jovenes

    May 13, 2021 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. BbshMile

    viagra results https://loxviagra.com/ viagra 25mg

    May 13, 2021 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. LebnEncox

    canada pharmacy online legit http://xlnpharmacy.com/ no rx needed pharmacy

    May 13, 2021 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. GtnbCrulk

    otc viagra alternative https://jokviagra.com/ coupons for viagra

    May 14, 2021 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to boh1066


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.