Methadone (also known as Dolophine) has long been prescribed by doctors for patients with intractable and chronic pain. These patients often suffer from traumatic injuries and back pain which proves unresponsive to other pain medications. Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to doctors and patients about the life-threatening dangers presented by this widely used medication.
The FDA warning informs doctors that while methadone provides pain relief for 4 to 8 hours, it can linger in the body for 8 to 59 hours. This lingering effect can lead patients to take more of the drug before it has been eliminated by the body, causing the drug to build up to toxic levels. These increased levels can result in slow or shallow breathing and dangerous changes in heart rate. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that methadone was listed the cause of 2,452 unintentional poisoning deaths in the US in 2003, up from 623 deaths in 1999. The FDA warns doctors to closely monitor those patients on this potentially life threatening drug.