Painkillers are powerful pharmaceuticals that can lead to a patient's death. One relatively uncommonly prescribed painkiller has been linked to a disproportionately large amount of deaths in the past few years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent recently released a study indicating that methadone is linked to 30 percent of prescription painkiller overdose deaths in the country despite accounting for only around two percent of the painkiller prescriptions written.
CBS News reports that although methadone is commonly thought of as a drug that heroin addicts use for treatment, it is more commonly used to treat pain. The majority of the deaths linked to methadone are for people who receive it to treat pain, not people with substance abuse problems.
Methadone can come in tablet or liquid form. Many methadone deaths occur because the drug builds up in a patient's system and causes an irregular heart rate or breathing problems. The CDC recently released a statement warning that methadone may not be the most appropriate prescription for patients, given that the number of deaths from the drugs has increased six-fold during the last decade.
"Deaths from opioid overdose have increased four-fold in the past decade, and methadone now accounts for nearly a third of opioid-associated deaths," a CDC spokesman said. "There are many safer alternatives to methadone for chronic non-cancer pain."
Source: CBS News, "Methadone to blame for one-third of U.S. prescription painkiller deaths, CDC says," Ryan Jaslow, July 4, 2012