Methadone deaths down, but cause could be shift to other drugs

Originally published on July 5, 2012 9:58 am

Tuesday. The Northwest has one of the highest Methadone prescription rates in the country.

You’ve probably heard of Methadone in the context of treatment for heroin addiction. But it’s also a painkiller in the same league as Vicodin and OxyContin.

According to the CDC, Methadone prescriptions and overdose deaths peaked in 2007. It’s a trend borne out by drug death numbers from the Seattle area and Oregon. The CDC credits public awareness campaigns and better prescription drug monitoring programs.

But Caleb Banta-Green at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute warns that addicts may be turning to other drugs -- including heroin because it’s cheap.

“Great that methadone’s going down, wonderful," Banta-Gree says. "But what we have are a bunch of people who are still addicted to opiates and the body doesn’t care whether it’s taking Oxycontin, methadone or heroin.”

The CDC also notes that while Methadone-related overdoses are down, prescription drug deaths overall continue to rise: more than 15,000 deaths nationwide in 2009.

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