I-Team: Death by Prescription Methadone - Part 2 - 8 News NOW

Colleen McCarty, Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Death by Prescription Methadone - Part 2

Posted: Updated:
Debbie believes if Ron had been more informed he would still be in the picture. Her seven-year-old granddaughter thinks he still is. Debbie believes if Ron had been more informed he would still be in the picture. Her seven-year-old granddaughter thinks he still is.
His wife, Debbie Kessler, describes him. "He was very, very laid back until probably the last year and his personality started to change. And it was about the time he started taking the methadone." His wife, Debbie Kessler, describes him. "He was very, very laid back until probably the last year and his personality started to change. And it was about the time he started taking the methadone."
The kids and the grandkids were his whole life. In his later years, it seems Ron Kessler was never without one or the other. The kids and the grandkids were his whole life. In his later years, it seems Ron Kessler was never without one or the other.

A drug most commonly associated with heroin addiction is now part of mainstream medicine. Methadone is now a popular pain treatment and as prescriptions skyrocket, so do methadone overdoses.

If you ask most people what drug is the number one killer in the Las Vegas Valley, they would guess a street drug like methamphetamine, not a prescription narcotic like methadone. But it claimed 80 lives in 2006 and research suggests most of those people got it from their doctor.

The kids and the grandkids were his whole life. In his later years, it seems Ron Kessler was never without one or the other.

His wife, Debbie Kessler, describes him. "He was very, very laid back until probably the last year and his personality started to change. And it was about the time he started taking the methadone."

A degenerative disc disease forced the career truck driver to hang up his keys. Treatment began with Vicodin and then Loritab, ad when those quit working, methadone.

The drug most commonly known as a treatment for heroin addicts has gained new popularity, as a pill for chronic pain. Prescription rates have nearly doubled in Nevada over the last five years and so have the number of overdose deaths.

Like Ron's.

"I knew it was a matter of time. I knew it was a matter of time. They were going to keep prescribing it and he was going to keep taking it," Debbie Kessler said.

Debbie watched helplessly as her husband's bright eyes dimmed with every dose and then dies from a lethal combination of anti-depressants, over the counter cough syrup, and methadone.

Dr. Mel Pohl, an addiction specialist at the Las Vegas Recovery Center, said, "I think it's appalling. It's not uncommon if the dose isn't working and there's pain, and you're told, well this drug's going to relieve your pain, to take more and inadvertently take more than is safe."

Last year the Food and Drug Administration advised doctors too much methadone taken too often or combined with certain other drugs, like anti-depressants, can cause respiratory failure.

The warning came two weeks too late for Ron.

Dr. Pohl continued, "If you're going to prescribe this, give them all the warnings, all the precautions, do the blood tests, follow up, give them counseling, don't just give them 120 tablets and send them on their merry way every month."

Debbie believes if Ron had been more informed he would still be in the picture. Her seven-year-old granddaughter thinks he still is.

"There's probably not many nights that go by that she doesn't wonder if paps going to send her a note from heaven. And it breaks my heart," she added. 

Though deaths like Ron underscore the dangers of methadone that does not mean it isn't an effective medication. People taking it need to be aware of the risks, take it only as prescribed, and only under a doctor's supervision.

E-mail your comments to Investigative Reporter Colleen McCarty.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.