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Methadone a Leading Cause of Accidental Overdoses

By February 2, 2009

Monday Morning Medication Safety Tip
Dr. Mike shares information on how to take your medications safely.

I was startled to read an article from an Indiana newspaper that identified the dramatic increase in deaths from an overdose of methadone.

Because methadone is an inexpensive alternative to OxyContin (oxycodone), it has become a widely prescribed drug for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. For example, the cost of a two-week supply of OxyContin is over $200.00 while the cost for a two-week supply of methadone is less than $30.00.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, methadone can cause slow or shallow breathing and dangerous changes in heart beat that may not be felt by the person using the medication. Life-threatening side effects and deaths have occurred in people starting methadone for pain control and in people who have switched to methadone from other strong narcotic pain relievers.

If you use methadone for pain relief, be safe:

  • Take methadone exactly as prescribed by your doctor - taking more methadone than prescribed can cause breathing to slow or stop and can cause death.
  • While taking methadone, you should not start or stop taking other medicines or dietary supplements without talking to your doctor. These changes may cause less pain relief or also cause a toxic buildup of methadone in your body
  • Learn the signs of methadone overdose, such as trouble breathing or shallow breathing; extreme tiredness; blurred vision; inability to think, talk or walk normally; and feeling faint, dizzy or confused.

More Information:

What do you think? Leave a comment below or in the Medication Forum.

To ask me a question about medication, email me at drugs.guide@about.com.

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February 3, 2009 at 1:39 pm
(1) Annie says:

Thank you for your article regarding the uncommon deaths and addictions due to overdosing on prescribed pain medications. Finally the press is starting to see the real truth about this medical disgrace. 8 years ago, when I was prescribed OxyContin and almost lost my life, I searched the internet as well as sought out help from the medical community, for answers to what had happened to me. Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. If I went to see a doctor, he/she hardly knew of the drug OxyContin and could not help me. Those that did know of the drug, simply put me on another narcotic. News articles were plenty with the “hillbilly heroin” theme. These articles, however contstantly contained the manufacturer (Purdue), and the pain organizations mantra, that “pain was undertreated” and studies showed that less than 1% of pain patients became addicted. Both statements now known to be untrue and unfounded “junk science”. The slick PR response, turned out to make billions for the pharmaceuticals, and the emerging pain management industry. It also sadly, created gross numbers of unwanted, unsuspected death and addiction of legitimate pain patients. It’s a horrible American tragedy. It took me 8 years to get off these narcotics and to understand how I was manipulated for greed. Unfortunately, I’m among the very, very few, who did not succumb to illegal behaviors and death. Addictions and death that should/could have been avoided through responsible medical education for those doing the prescribing. Patients have no idea how loosley this phenomena of overprescribing narcotics has occurred. They just “trust” their doctor, FDA, and pharmaceutical companies. Very Sad

February 9, 2009 at 11:29 pm
(2) Suzy says:

Everyone I know that has taken Methadone, has died! I don’t know if the deaths were accidental ODs or purposely OD to hurt themselves.. I think I’ve known personally 4 different people whom have passed away from the deadly drug, Methadone. When my PCP and I were discussing a pain pill for my chronic pain, the Methaone word came up, but was quickly squashed by me, b/c I didn’t want my dr to put me anywhere near that drug! Also another drug I wanted nothing to do with was OxyContin, as I knew nothing about it, except that it s extremely addictive, and that’s a problem for me. We decided on Neurontin (for nerve pain) and MS Contin for my chronic neck pain, as I have to deal with Spasmodic Torticollis – a rare neurological disorder with no cure, just treatment which is Botox injections, directly into my neck. It really hurts, but I get through it every time, b/c my husband comes into the room and holds my hand lol.

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