Methadone Deaths in Maryland Examined

Few people who died from methadone overdoses in Maryland were in drug treatment, according to a study by the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland in College Park.

The state has seen methadone-related deaths more than triple between 1998 and 2002, from 24 to 76, the Baltimore Sun reported May 18.

According to medical records, only 16 percent of the 56 Marylanders who died from methadone overdoses between 2000 and 2002 were in drug treatment programs at the time of their deaths. The study further found that 20 percent of those who died obtained methadone illegally, while 5 percent had a prescription for the drug. The source of the drug was unknown in the rest of the cases.

Methadone is used to treat heroin addiction and to relieve chronic pain. Between 1998 and 2002, prescription methadone sales in Maryland increased 167 percent. However, the report found that methadone treatment admissions rose only 30 percent during the same period.

Editor’s Note: As more states have cracked down on diversion and abuse of OxyContin, doctors and patients have increasingly turned to methadone for use as a painkiller, with the result being more diversion and abuse of methadone.