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Methadone Deaths Down, But Northwest Expert Warns Of Shift To Other Drugs

Tuesday. The Northwest has one of the highest Methadone prescription rates in the country.

You’ve probably heard of Methadone in the context of treatment for heroin addiction. But it’s also a painkiller in the same league as Vicodin and OxyContin.

According to the CDC, Methadone prescriptions and overdose deaths peaked in 2007. It’s a trend borne out by drug death numbers from the Seattle area and Oregon. The CDC credits public awareness campaigns and better prescription drug monitoring programs.

But Caleb Banta-Green at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute warns that addicts may be turning to other drugs -- including heroin because it’s cheap.

“Great that methadone’s going down, wonderful," Banta-Gree says. "But what we have are a bunch of people who are still addicted to opiates and the body doesn’t care whether it’s taking Oxycontin, methadone or heroin.”

The CDC also notes that while Methadone-related overdoses are down, prescription drug deaths overall continue to rise: more than 15,000 deaths nationwide in 2009.

On the Web:

CDC Report: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/MethadoneOverdoses/

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.