According to government officials, powerful painkillers overdose deaths are raising but slowly and this could have been caused by new restriction which has been put on methadone.
There have been more than 41,000 drug overdose deaths across US which are up from 38000 in the preceding year. 50% of these deaths have been caused by prescription or OTC medicines.
The soaring overdose death rate for many years in the US was fed by prescription opoid painkillers. Of late these numbers are not rising fast according to a new report by CDC.
Opioid pain relievers are prescription drugs and in 2011 accounted for 17000 overdose deaths. This is three times the deaths which have been caused by heroin or cocaine. Death rates from some opioid painkillers, like OxyContin and Vicodin, have continued to rise steadily.
The light in the tunnel is that there has been a slowdown in the rise of opioid painkiller overdose rates. In the periods in between 1999 through 2006, the rates were increasing by 18 percent each year. However from 2007 to 2011 it has been 3%.
The major contribution to this fall has been the deaths tied to Methadone. Methadone is prescribed for treating Heroin addiction and is also prescribed as an analgesic. The FDA had way back in 2006 warned Doctors that Methadone has potential for misuse and in 2008 methadone manufacturers decided to limit the distribution to hospitals and addiction treatment programs,
Government is contemplating new measures to lower the overdose death rates with other opioid based painkillers. The first step has already been taken and from next month Vicodin and other medicines containing the opioid hydrocodone will become Schedule II drugs and prescriptions will be limited to a 30-day supply, and renewals will require a new written prescription. Next month a new Federal Rule will enable patients to return unused drugs like opioid painkillers to pharmacies for disposal.