A nonprofit medical group is sponsoring statewide training Thursday on the safe use of the prescription painkiller methadone.
The Appalachian Pain Foundation is conducting the training live over the Internet for hospitals and clinics throughout West Virginia.
The group, which is funded largely by government grants, is providing the training in response to �The Killer Cure,� a series of articles in The Charleston Gazette about overdose deaths tied to methadone, said Executive Director Skip Lineberg.
The Gazette series found that West Virginia ranked first per capita in methadone overdose deaths, and that methadone was more likely involved in overdose deaths than any other prescription drug.
The number of Americans whose deaths were blames on methadone rose from 790 in 1999 to 2,992 in 2003, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Many of the people who died abused the drug. But others were prescribed the drug legitimately for pain.
Methadone is a powerful and inexpensive painkiller that has become increasingly popular in the last 10 years.
But methadone also can be uniquely dangerous for patients who are not used to strong narcotic painkillers. A dose that is therapeutic for one person could kill someone else.
One of the problems is methadone�s package insert, which includes a �usual adult dosage� of up to 80 milligrams a day that could kill someone who is just starting to take methadone. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing that language.