In fact, until last month, the package insert for methadone included a potentially fatal �usual adult dose� for pain patients � up to 80 milligrams a day.
Last month, the FDA issued a public health advisory for methadone, titled �Methadone Use for Pain Control May Result in Death.�
The agency also revised the drug�s package insert, cutting the recommended maximum dose to 30 milligrams a day for new pain patients.
The media often portray methadone overdose victims as drug addicts and criminals who steal it or buy it illegally off the street. But a significant number of victims were prescribed the drug to treat their pain, according to a Gazette-Mail investigation.
The new study provides evidence that many methadone victims are older people, not the stereotypical younger drug addict. People between the ages of 35 and 54 were the most likely to die of a methadone overdose.
The number of people dying because of methadone is now twice the number dying of a heroin overdose and 1,400 less than overdoses blamed on all other narcotic painkillers combined.
West Virginia led the nation in accidental methadone overdose deaths with a rate of more than five deaths per 100,000 people, compared to one death per 100,000 nationwide. That number is based on a Gazette-Mail analysis of raw data provided in the report.
Florida had the largest number of methadone deaths, 400. Other states with a high rate of methadone overdose deaths per capita include Maine, Washington, Oklahoma, Nevada, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.
To read the other stories in this series, log on to: www.wvgazette.com/section/Series/The Killer Cure
To contact staff writers Scott Finn and Tara Tuckwiller, use e-mail or call 357-4323.