Hugh Pickens writes "Over 2,000 patients have died since 2003 in Washington State alone by accidentally overdosing on a commonly prescribed narcotic painkiller that costs less than a dollar a dose and the deaths are clustered predominately in places with lower incomes because Washington state has steered people with state-subsidized health care — Medicaid patients, injured workers and state employees — to methadone because the drug is cheap. Methadone belongs to a class of narcotic painkillers, called opioids, that includes OxyContin, fentanyl and morphine. Within that group, methadone accounts for less than 10 percent of the drugs prescribed — but more than half of the deaths and although Methadone works wonders for some patients, relieving chronic pain from throbbing backs to inflamed joints, the drug's unique properties make it unforgiving and sometimes lethal. 'Most painkillers, such as OxyContin, dissipate from the body within hours. Methadone can linger for days, pooling to a toxic reservoir that depresses the respiratory system,' write Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong. 'With little warning, patients fall asleep and don't wake up. Doctors call it the silent death.'"
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