New, tighter controls on drugs that contain hydrocodone now enforced by the DEA in an effort to combat the surging number of prescription drug overdoses occurring in the U.S. The latest recommendations name Hydrocodone a Schedule II substance, rendering it dangerous and making it more difficult to legally obtain.
While experts continue to voice concern over the FDA approval and release of Zohydro, a pure hydrocodone drug that is expected to both help and hurt society (helping by providing long term pain control to those in need while hurting by adding yet another powerful and highly dangerous narcotic to the streets), hydrocodone related overdoses continue to rise and the number of fatalities resulting from the misuse of this drug causes reason for alarm.
In August, the DEA announced tighter restrictions on painkillers containing hydrocodone. This would include heavier restrictions on:
Prior to the crackdown, hydrocodone containing drugs such as these were schedule III narcotics that were deemed to have only a minor potential for abuse and misuse. Now, as a schedule II controlled substance, hydrocodone containing painkillers are regulated in the same manner as Oxycontin and Oxycodone.
Tighter restrictions change the game for consumers, patients, users and doctors. Patients who are regularly prescribed hydrocodone containing medications will now be required to see a doctor at least every 90 days in order to get refills approved. Individuals being caught in possession of hydrocodone without a prescription will face tougher penalties than before. Doctors and pharmacists will be expected to do their part in patient monitoring.
Get the complete rundown of the changes and the reasoning behind the re-scheduling of hydrocodone containing drugs here.
Dr. Eric Collins, of Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, believes that this change will, "reduce both the number of new initiates to opioid use and the number of accidental and intentional overdose deaths." Opponents of this change worry that while it can reduce the availability of opiates such as Vicodin or Lortab from making their way into the hands of teens, the result may be an immediate push for teens to skip the pills and go straight to heroin.
Unfortunately, only time will tell how deeply the scheduling changes will impact our society as a whole. In a country were drug addiction runs rampant and prescription drug overdoses kill more than 100 people every single day, tighter restrictions have long been needed. The real question here is, are these restrictions coming "too little, too late."