Methadone overdoses among most common for opioid painkillers

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by Eric Pearson

The U.S. has seen a dramatic surge in opioid overdose deaths over the last several years. In 2009, for example, more than 15,000 Americans died from a prescription drug overdose, compared to just 4000 ten years earlier.

A recent report from Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) showed that methadone is among the most frequent drugs leading to a prescription drug overdose. The CDC’s monthly Vital Signs Report issued in July 2012 showed that methadone was found in nearly one third of all prescription painkiller overdose deaths even though it is prescribed for only 2% of painkiller needs. In cases involving overdose from a single painkiller, methadone was the culprit in 40% of the deaths, more than twice as much as any other drug.

The specific problem with methadone is that is builds up in the body. This buildup can disrupt breathing and heart rhythm. It has become more popular in recent years as a pain killer, because it’s considered the less addictive of the opiates. With an increase in popularity has come an increase in deaths: death from methadone overdose has increased six-fold since 1999.

The CDC recommends that health care providers take additional measures to prevent prescription painkiller overdoses:

  • Prescribing only the quantity of painkillers needed based on the expected length of pain;
  • Educating prescribers on the under-appreciated risks and exaggerated benefits of high-dose opioid therapy;
  • Training doctors on appropriate prescribing of opioids; and
  • Educating patients on how to safely use, store, and dispose of prescription painkillers and how to prevent and recognize overdoses.

If a loved one died from an accidental prescription drug overdose, you may be entitled to compensation from the prescribing doctor. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled dozens of lawsuits involving medical malpractice related to painkiller prescriptions, and are available for a free legal consultation about your case. To find out if you are eligible, call us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or fill out our free online case evaluation form, and one of our representatives will contact you for more information.