Methadone: Initiative Focuses on Safe Use, Outreach Materials
Methadone poisonings increased from 1999 to 2004, according to Federal data. To help educate consumers and health professionals, SAMHSA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new public health initiative called “Follow Directions: How to Use Methadone Safely.”
Outreach materials include a brochure, a poster, and a fact sheet in English and Spanish aimed at consumers and health care professionals. In addition, a point-of-sale information sheet will be distributed in pharmacies that dispense methadone.
“The methadone safety campaign materials provide simple instructions on how to use the medication correctly to either manage pain or treat drug addiction,” said H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT).
The initiative began in part as a response to the threefold increase in poisoning deaths linked to methadone between 1999 and 2004, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The figure for poisoning deaths linked to methadone is rising faster than the number of poisoning deaths from any other narcotic drug.
Methadone is well-known as a medication for treating heroin addiction and dependence on other narcotic drugs. In the case of addiction treatment, methadone is dispensed by a program or clinic certified by SAMHSA and registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
But methadone is also used to treat moderate to severe chronic pain, and when used as an analgesic, it may be prescribed by any health care professional registered for Schedule II controlled substances. Methadone can be dispensed by any licensed and DEA-registered pharmacy.
It’s methadone’s analgesic use that has raised concern. The medication usually provides pain relief within 4 to 8 hours, but a single dose can remain in the body from 8 to 59 hours. If methadone is taken too often, in too high an amount, or with other medications, it can build up to toxic levels.
To download or to order copies of the brochure, poster, or fact sheet in English or in Spanish, visit SAMHSA’s Web site.