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January 19, 2005

Diversion and Abuse of Methadone Prescribed for Pain Management

JAMA. 2005;293(3):293-298. doi:10.1001/jama.293.3.297

To the Editor: In late 2003-2004, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the General Accounting Office, and several state authorities reported that diversion and abuse of methadone was emerging as a major problem in a number of metropolitan areas across the United States.1-4 In some states, it was asserted that methadone had surpassed controlled-release oxycodone as the most widely diverted and abused drug, an assertion reinforced by newspaper accounts.1-5 This increase in reported methadone abuse was attributed to the increase in licit and illicit exposure to methadone resulting from its inappropriate use as a safer alternative to drugs with greater potential for abuse. To examine the accuracy of these reports, we quantified information from an abuse and diversion surveillance system.