Methadone Deaths Down, But NW Expert Warns Of Shift To Other Drugs

Jul 4, 2012

Overdose deaths from a popular painkiller called Methadone appear to have peaked nationally. That’s according to a CDC report released Tuesday. The Northwest has one of the highest Methadone prescription rates in the country. Correspondent Austin Jenkins has more.

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 School of Public Health 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.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio