It is heartening to see the CDC dig deeper into understanding the real cause of prescription opioid associated deaths in the United States. In a new Vital Signs released this week, the CDC states “methadone has played a central role in the epidemic.” Some of the facts:
-30% of opioid assoc deaths involve methadone but it makes up only 2% of the deaths
-Opioid deaths associated with methadone increased six times over the last decade.
-40% of opioid associated death involving a single prescription painkiller involved methadone, twice as many as any other opioid.
As identified by the Seattle Times, many insurance plans, including Washington State Medicaid and the Veterans Administration have been recommending if not mandating the use of methadone as a generic and cheap opioid. Most clinicians have little education in its use.
This is a generic compound and it really does become responsibility of each health care professional and their health case system to ensure how to prescribe methadone appropriately in the appropriate person.
This is not the end of the story. This represents exactly with type of analysis that helps us understand the problem of opioid associated deaths. There are too many deaths, and understanding the dilemmas fully will move us to a more balanced situation, allowing those for whom opioids are needed for pain relief to receive them while reducing the risk of abuse and diversion.
Even though the opening sentences continues to use the word “responsible” rather than “associated,” lets give kudos to the CDC for this report.
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