However, 10 milligrams might seem like a perfectly reasonable starting dose to a doctor unfamiliar with methadone. �Everybody is used to writing [prescriptions for] 5 to 10 milligrams of morphine,� a much weaker opiate painkiller than methadone. �If they�re not really sure of the dose, they might say, �Oh, I see it can go up to 10 [milligrams].� They�re doing it out of habit, more than awareness.�
When morphine doesn�t kill a patient�s pain, doctors might try methadone � sometimes under pressure from insurance companies, several doctors told the Sunday Gazette-Mail, because methadone is very cheap.
It is cheap to make and sell, Terpening said, because it has �an ungodly long half-life� compared with other painkillers. Drug companies have to spend a lot of money making other painkillers time-release, but not methadone.
However, it stays in the body so long that it can easily build up to toxic levels. �It�s a lot cheaper,� Terpening said. �But it comes at a price.�
Terpening first became interested in methadone when he started seeing prescriptions being written for more and more patients. �When I was in pharmacy school in the late �90s, we got very little training on it,� he said. �That was before it took off as a common-use analgesic.
�I took it upon myself to learn a little bit more about it ... The more I learned, I found out that methadone is kind of a double-edged sword. It has these very good properties, but those same properties make it dangerous.�
Now, Terpening always teaches his students about methadone. �But I think they could still have even more [training] ... There definitely is a need for a lot of education how to appropriately use methadone, so we can avoid some of these adverse events.�
The Mountain Retreat conference usually includes up to 175 participants � physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, counselors and occupational therapists, Williams said. It will be at Snowshoe Mountain Resort Sept. 8-10 and will cover topics ranging from obesity to Alzheimer�s. For information or to register, visit www.mountainretreatwv.com or call (304) 346-0300.
To contact staff writers Scott Finn or Tara Tuckwiller, use e-mail or call 357-4323 or 348-5189.