Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Prescription Painkiller Overdose – Press Room

Prescription Painkiller Overdoses: Use and Abuse of Methadone as a Painkiller

(Posted 07/03/2012)

 Photo: pills in a person's handA Vital Signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that the prescription painkiller methadone plays a large role in prescription painkiller overdose deaths in the United States. Researchers analyzed national data from 1999-2010 and data from 13 states for the year 2009. Results showed that while methadone accounts for only 2 percent of painkiller prescriptions in the United States, it is now involved in more than 30 percent of all prescription painkiller deaths. In deaths involving only a single painkiller, methadone accounted for four out of every ten deaths, twice as many as for any other prescription painkiller.

Methadone has been used safely and effectively for decades to treat drug addiction, but in recent years it has been used increasingly as a pain reliever. As methadone prescriptions for pain have increased, so have nonmedical use and associated fatal overdoses. Methadone carries more risks than other painkillers because it tends to build up in the body and can disrupt a person’s breathing or heart rhythm. CDC results showed that methadone used for pain posed a greater risk than painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Despite recent federal efforts to educate health care providers that methadone is a drug with special risks that requires experience to prescribe safely, more than 4 million prescriptions are written for the drug every year. The Vital Signs report includes steps that everyone can take to address this important public health issue.

To Learn More:

Back to Press Room

Prescription Painkiller Overdoses in the U.S.

(Posted 11/01/2011)

 Poison Prevention WeekOverdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed in the past decade. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs—more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined.

Overdoses involving prescription painkillers—a class of drugs that includes hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone—are a public health epidemic. These drugs are widely misused and abused. One in 20 people in the United States, ages 12 and older, used prescription painkillers nonmedically (without a prescription or just for the "high" they cause) in 2010. A recent CDC analysis discusses this growing epidemic and suggested measures for prevention.

To Learn More:

Back to Press Room

Drug Overdose Deaths — Florida, 2003–2009

(Posted 07/07/2011)

 Photo: pills in a bottleIn the United States, drug poisonings are the second leading cause of injury death after motor-vehicle crashes. CDC has released a study that examined drug overdose deaths in Florida from 2003 to 2009. In this seven-year period, the death rate involving prescription drugs increased by 84.2 percent. The greatest increase was observed in the oxycodone death rate (264.6 percent), followed by alprazolam (233.8 percent) and methadone (79.2 percent). Heroin rates dropped 62.2 percent, while cocaine rates rose until 2007 and then declined in 2008 and 2009. By 2009, the number of deaths involving prescription drugs in Florida was four times the number involving illicit drugs. States need to strengthen interventions aimed at reducing such overdoses and implement surveillance systems that are able to track patterns of drug use and the impact of prevention measures in a timely way.

Learn More

Back to Press Room

Sharp Increase in Emergency Department Visits for Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs

(Posted 06/18/2010)

 Poison Prevention WeekA new MMWR report examines emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of prescription drugs prone to abuse. Scientists from CDC's Injury Center and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) worked together to analyze data from SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). Key findings include:

  • There was a 111% increase in emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of opioid painkillers in the United States between 2004 and 2008.
  • In 2008, the number of ED visits involving nonmedical use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs roughly equaled the number involving illicit drugs.
  • Most visits for nonmedical use of drugs involved opioid painkillers (especially oxycodone, hydrocodone, or methadone) or benzodiazepines, a class of sedative drugs.

View the complete report, which includes:

  • Emergency department visit trends
  • Drugs most commonly involved
  • Age groups most severely affected

Learn More about this Public Health Threat

Listen to Podcasts

Back to Press Room

Unintentional Drug Poisoning in the United States - June 3, 2010

(Posted 06/03/2010)

 Poison Prevention WeekUnintentional drug poisoning is a serious public health concern. More than 26,000 deaths from unintentional drug poisoning occurred in the United States in 2006. Opioid pain medications (such as oxycodone and methadone) were involved in more than half of these deaths. Overall, the unintentional drug poisoning death rate has been rising in recent years and more than doubled between 1999 and 2006.

Teens and Unintentional Poisonings

Learn More

Listen to Podcasts

Back to Press Room

Unintentional Drug Poisoning in the United States - March 18, 2010

(Posted 03/18/2010)

 Poison Prevention WeekUnintentional drug poisoning is a serious public health concern. More than 26,000 deaths from unintentional drug poisoning occurred in the United States in 2006. Opioid pain medications (such as oxycodone and methadone) were involved in more than half of these deaths. Overall, the unintentional drug poisoning death rate has been rising in recent years and more than doubled between 1999 and 2006.

Learn More about this Public Health Threat

Listen to Podcasts

Back to Press Room

Top