Deaths related to methadone rise

BY MICHAEL BAKER Published: March 21, 2010
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Stephanie Wilcoxson, 11, died from an overdose of methadone, a drug that is killing people at a greater rate than other prescription painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Methadone, which is prescribed to treat both pain and drug addiction, was found in Stephanie’s blood and liver, according the state medical examiner’s autopsy report, which concluded the Noble girl’s death was suicide.

A death attributed to methadone of someone as young as Stephanie is rare, but getting less so, said Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

"Most of these deaths are involving adults rather than teens,” he said. "As more people have methadone at home, you’re going to see more methadone deaths.”

Methadone related deaths have jumped substantially in the past years, Woodward said. The drug has attributed to more than 100 Oklahoma deaths a year since 2004. Methadone alone or in a mixture with other drugs played a part in 110 deaths in 2008.

The climb in deaths related to methadone comes from an increase in prescriptions for pain, Woodward said.

Methadone is increasingly used as a painkiller because it is about 20 times cheaper than drugs such as OxyContin, according to a study by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. The pill form of methadone has killed more people in recent years nationally than any other opiate, according to the 2008 study.