Trends in Methadone Distribution for Pain Treatment, Methadone Diversion, and Overdose Deaths - United States, 2002-2014.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Jul 08; 65(26):667-71.MM
Use of the prescription opioid methadone for treatment of pain, as opposed to treatment of opioid use disorder (e.g., addiction), has been identified as a contributor to the U.S. opioid overdose epidemic. Although methadone accounted for only 2% of opioid prescriptions in 2009 (1), it was involved in approximately 30% of overdose deaths. Beginning with 2006 warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), efforts to reduce methadone use for pain have accelerated (2,3). The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC analyzed methadone distribution, reports of diversion (the transfer of legally manufactured methadone into illegal markets), and overdose deaths during 2002-2014. On average, the rate of grams of methadone distributed increased 25.1% per year during 2002-2006 and declined 3.2% per year during 2006-2013. Methadone-involved overdose deaths increased 22.1% per year during 2002-2006 and then declined 6.5% per year during 2006-2014. During 2002-2006, rates of methadone diversion increased 24.3% per year; during 2006-2009, the rate increased at a slower rate, and after 2009, the rate declined 12.8% per year through 2014. Across sex, most age groups, racial/ethnic populations, and U.S. Census regions, the methadone overdose death rate peaked during 2005-2007 and declined in subsequent years. There was no change among persons aged ≥65 years, and among persons aged 55-64 years the methadone overdose death rate continued to increase through 2014. Additional clinical and public health policy changes are needed to reduce harm associated with methadone use for pain, especially among persons aged ≥55 years.