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By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It is a disturbing statistic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methadone accounted for two percent of painkiller prescriptions in the United States in 2009 but was involved in more than 30% of prescription painkiller overdose deaths.

Methadone has a valuable role. It has been used safely and effectively for many years to treat addiction. But it is being used more and more as a pain reliever and as prescriptions have increased so have methadone related non-medical and fatal overdoses.

The CDC found that six times as many persons died from methadone overdoses in 2009 than in 1999. Part of the issue is recognizing that there is a problem in the first place and seriously monitoring who might be abusing the drug.

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