Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Methadone Death Spike Linked to Outpatient Prescriptions

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Methadone Death Spike Linked to Outpatient Prescriptions

Article excerpt

Methadone prescriptions for outpatient pain management, not its use in opioid treatment programs, have been linked to an observed increase in deaths related to use of the drug in recent years, according to a federal government report.

Given that these deaths appear to have resulted from methadone obtained through outpatient prescriptions, it is time to develop a core educational curriculum for physicians and other health care providers to understand diagnosis and treatment of both pain and addiction, according to recommendations included in the report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Methadone's pharmacology and appropriate use also need to be included in that core curriculum, the report's authors said.

The need for the national assessment of methadone use was highlighted by reported increases in methadone-related mortality in recent years in Maine, Florida, and North Carolina. The report states that Maine saw a doubling of methadone deaths from 1999 to 2000 and an additional increase in 2002.

There was concern that the increase in methadone-associated mortality was the result of changes in SAMHSA regulations made in 2001 that allowed people in the advanced stages of treatment at opioid treatment programs (OTP), also known as methadone clinics, to take home doses of methadone over the weekend.

In Florida, there was a large increase in methadone-associated deaths from 2001 to 2002, although 83% were attributed to use of other drugs in combination with methadone. …

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