Methadone Deaths in New York City

GGD-77-25: Published: Mar 14, 1977. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 1977.

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Methadone abuse and its consequences are a serious problem in New York City. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City attributed 836 deaths from January 1974 to June 1975 to methadone, either alone or in combination with other drugs.

Available records indicate that: the combination of methadone and other drugs was found in more deaths than methadone alone; victims were usually between the ages of 16 and 30 and not enrolled in a methadone treatment program; the methadone involved in most deaths has been acquired illegally; and the density of methadone treatment programs and patients in New York City appeared to contribute greatly to the large number of methadone deaths. Probably more than half of the patients in treatment programs sell part of their take-home supply, contributing to the illicit methadone problem. Thefts from legitimate sources also contribute to the illicit methadone supply. The Department of Justice believes that methadone take-home supplies are the true cause of illicit methadone supplies and that only the Food and Drug Administration, responsible for overseeing medical standards for methadone use in treatment programs, can decide whether to allow take-home privileges.

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