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CDC Report: Methadone Kills Nearly 5,000 People Every Year

Update Date: Jul 05, 2012 12:56 PM EDT

A new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that nearly 5,000 people die from Methadone painkiller overdoses each year. But, Methadone accounts for only 2 percent of painkiller prescriptions in the United States.

"Methadone is riskier than other prescription painkillers," CDC director Thomas Frieden said. "And there's really been an overuse of methadone for pain."

According to the CDC, Methadone is commonly prescribed for chronic problems like back pain even though it might not help these problems in the long run. Over 4 million methadone prescriptions were written for pain in 2009, despite US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings about the risks associated with methadone.

The CDC report also noted that Methadone overdose has killed six times as many people in 2009 as it did in 1999.

Methadone has some benefits but can also adversely affect the body. According to the CDC, taking the drug more than three times a day can cause the drug to build up in a person's body, and can lead to dangerously slowed breathing and can seriously disrupt the heart's rhythm.

In one study, four in ten overdose deaths involving single prescription painkillers involved methadone, twice as many as any other prescription painkiller.

In New York, Methadone prescriptions account for up to nearly nine percent of prescription painkillers dispensed in the state, according to the CDC report. In 12 states, Methadone prescriptions account for up to nearly 19 percent in those states. Nationally, 9 percent of painkiller prescriptions are for Methadone.

According to the report, the federal government is enforcing laws to prevent nonmedical use of methadone, educating health care providers and consumers about the correct use of Methadone and tracking prescription drug overdose trends and the impact of efforts to stop overdoses.

The report says people should use Methadone only as directed by a health care provider and make sure they are the only ones to use their Methadone and never sell or share it with others.

More than 15,500 people die every year of prescription drug overdoses.

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