By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
UNDATED -- A prescription drug is killing so many people in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is holding a statewide symposium to educate doctors and police officers.
The drug is methadone and the number of overdoses caused by it has skyrocketed in recent years.
Methadone was initially developed to help heroin addicts get off heroin.
However, in recent years, doctors have discovered it also treats pain and more and more are prescribing it because it lasts longer than other pain killers and is much cheaper.
"You can get, from a pharmacy, 100 pills of methadone for $35, where it'd be $350 for 100 hydrocodone," said OBN's David Hale.
The problem is people taking it don't realize how long methadone lasts in your system. Unlike other pain killers that may work for six or eight hours, methadone stays in your body for 72 hours. Since it takes longer to work, people often feel it's not working and take more, not realizing the methadone can build-up to fatal levels.
"So, if you took 25 mg now and feel it's not working and take another and still not working, so take another, it will kill you," said OBN's David Hale.
The other people, who are overdosing, are taking methadone to get high, because they figure if it helps heroin addicts, it must do something, but it doesn't provide a high. So, they combine it with other drugs like Xanax or pain killers, which can be a lethal mixture.
"Kids get it out of the medicine cabinet and mix it with other things and there's a chance they're going to die," said OBN's David Hale.
And, people are dying at a record rate.
The number of methadone overdoses in Oklahoma has risen 73% in the past eight years, far more than meth, hydrocodone and cocaine.
A lot of cops don't think methadone should be prescribed as a pain killer, even if it is cheap, because of the dangers.
"If physicians, who are giving it because of the cost, need to educate their patients," said OBN's David Hale.
As with so many issues, they say education is the key to saving lives.
The statewide symposium for doctors and law enforcement officers will take place at the end of this month in Ardmore and will feature speakers from around the country talking about methadone dangers.