Methadone Rises as a Painkiller With Big Risks

By ERIK ECKHOLM and OLGA PIERCE
The New York Times, August 16, 2008

… Methadone, once used mainly in addiction treatment centers to replace heroin, is today being given out by family doctors, osteopaths and nurse practitioners for throbbing backs, joint injuries and a host of other severe pains.

A synthetic form of opium, it is cheap and long lasting, a powerful pain reliever that has helped millions. But because it is also abused by thrill seekers and badly prescribed by doctors unfamiliar with its risks, methadone is now the fastest growing cause of narcotic deaths. It is implicated in more than twice as many deaths as heroin, and is rivaling or surpassing the tolls of painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. More…

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