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This all boiled down to more education of doctors about the dangers of prescribing methadone, said Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

“The word got out,” said Goldberger, who has been studying methadone overdose deaths for about a decade.

Doctors may be swinging back to prescribing oxycodone and hydrocodone, he said.

Despite all the warnings, the CDC researchers say too many prescriptions are still being written for pain, many by internists and family doctors, not pain specialists. And many of the prescriptions are for back pain and other conditions that methadone might not help in the long run, CDC officials said.

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Online:

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns