When used to treat pain, methadone is prescribed in pill form by neurologists, psychiatrists, and other doctors who carefully screen patients and provide individualized and specific dosing instructions. When used to treat opiate addiction, it is administered daily, in liquid form, through a highly regulated methadone maintenance treatment (MMT). During the MMT, the methadone is usually administered under close supervision of a doctor in a methadone clinic.
While methadone is a low cost treatment that has been used for around decades, wrongful deaths due to methadone overdose have increased dramatically in the last decade. Increased usage may partially explain this increase, but negligent doctors who fail to properly monitor their patients are also contributing to this phenomenon.
Methadone has a highly variable half-life, which means that it can stay in the body for long periods of time and accumulate in varying amounts depending on a patient’s individual biological characteristics. While a dose typically lasts from 4-8 hours, it can stay in the body from 8-59 hours after it is taken. This increases the risk for an overdose, especially within the first week that treatment is undertaken, or of drug toxicity when taken with certain other medications or supplements. This often occurs when a doctor is transitioning a patient from one form of opiate analgesic, like OxyContin, Lortab, or Percocet, to Methadone.
The sharp increase in methadone poisonings has prompted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a public health advisory. The advisory cautions patients to take methadone exactly as prescribed and to be aware of the signs of methadone overdose.
Unfortunately, while doctors are trained on how to administer safe doses of methadone, doctors and clinics make mistakes. They are responsible for providing complete and accurate information to patients with regard to methadone use. Pharmacies may also fill the wrong dose or medication. These kinds of mistakes, when they involve methadone prescriptions, can be fatal.
If you or a loved one is the victim of methadone poisoning, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer who understands Methadone toxicity. Attorney Ryan Springer has experience with Methadone litigation, and will diligently investigate the cause. If the poisoning was as the result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation.