NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 6, 2007

For some heroin addicts, methadone, the drug that is supposed to help them, is the drug that kills them, according to a report by the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).

Other findings:

  • Deaths caused by overdoses of methadone, a synthetic narcotic dispensed to reduce heroin abuse, soared nearly 400 percent over the five years ending in 2004.
  • Methadone deaths climbed to 3,849 in 2004 from 786 deaths in 1999.
  • Cocaine-related deaths rose only 43 percent during the same period, to 5,461 from 3,822.

At least some of the deaths reported resulted from misuse of legitimately prescribed methadone because patients weren\'t properly counseled.  Methadone should be used under the care of a physician, the report says.

"NDIC views the abuse and misuse of Methadone with concern because of a significant increase in methadone related deaths that have occurred over recent years," says Charles Miller, senior liaison for Interagency Affairs of NDIC.  "Most methadone deaths are believed to be related to opioid abusers who abuse diverted methadone rather than to the use of legally obtained methadone."

Source: Shirley S. Wang, "Methadone Deaths March Upward," Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2007.

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