A review of methadone deaths in Jefferson County, Alabama

Academic Article


  • Interpretation of the concentration of a drug is more difficult when a combination of drugs is present in a decedent's blood. An increase in deaths resulting from co-intoxication with methadone and a benzodiazepine led the authors to perform a retrospective study of cases examined at the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner Office. They found 101 deaths wherein methadone was detected in the blood. Based on the drugs detected in the blood, these 101 cases were grouped into four categories: (1) pure methadone intoxication, (2) intoxication with methadone and benzodiazepine, (3) intoxication with methadone and other drugs excluding benzodiazepine, and (4) intoxication with methadone, benzodiazepines, and other drugs. Methadone was the sole intoxicant in 15 cases, with a mean concentration of 0.27 mg/L. Benzodiazepines were the most frequently detected co-intoxicant (60 of 101 cases). Benzodiazepine was the only co-intoxicant in 30 cases, and the mean methadone concentration in those 30 cases was 0.599 mg/L. Higher levels of methadone may occur in acute intoxication with methadone and benzodiazepine because benzodiazepines compete with methadone for methadone receptors. Higher levels of methadone may occur with chronic abuse of methadone and benzodiazepines because over time, benzodiazepines inhibit the hepatic enzymes that metabolize methadone.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Mikolaenko I; Robinson CA; Davis GG
  • Start Page

  • 299
  • End Page

  • 304
  • Volume

  • 23
  • Issue

  • 3