Methadone, the heroin substitute, is a killer in the wrong hands. So who is responsible for putting this dangerous drug in the hands of our young people? The drug dealer? A cartel from South America? No, it’s the friendly family doctor, who is writing up to 40 per cent of all prescriptions.
Many of these drugs are not being taken by the person for whom the prescription is written, but instead are sold on to drug abusers.
Of all drugs, methadone is responsible for more deaths from misuse and abuse. In the four years to 1997, methadone-associated deaths rose from 371 to 675 a year in England and Wales alone. Some have included small children who have uncovered methadone supplies in the family home.
Doctors at the City Hospital in Birmingham estimate that more lives have been lost from the prescribing of methadone than have been saved.
Methadone has its advocates who believe the drug has suffered from an unwarranted ‘bad press’, and say it is also a very effective painkiller.
But it’s clear that it’s also a drug that needs more careful control, and one that needs to be taken out of the trusting hands of the family GP.
(Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 2003; 348: 81).