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Hydrocodone Combination Drugs are Re-classified by DEA

on Thursday, 11 September 2014. Posted in Breaking News

In an attempt to curb drug abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration has made the decision to reclassify hydrocodone combination drugs as Schedule II drugs which are more restricted. The DEA published their final rule in late August and it will apply to all pharmaceuticals containing hydrocodone with are currently on the market in the U.S.

Hydrocodone is now one of the most widely prescribed pain medications in the country and when reclassification soon takes effect it will be under a more restrictive class reserved for the most dangerous medicines. The change in classification for the drug has been debated for decades but less than a month hydrocodone will become more difficult to obtain for drug abusers.

High Addiction Rates for Painkillers

The DEA administrator, Michele Leonhart, stated that the decision was made because there are currently almost 7 million Americans abusing prescription medications including opioid painkillers. In the U.S. there are more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than there are from automobile accidents.

The DEA chose to reclassify hydrocodone as an action that recognizes these kinds of drugs as the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications on the market. The growing instances of opioid abuse have also been linked to the heroin crisis currently spreading across much of the northeast including New York.

While the DEA's decision could help to curb some of the rampant abuse in the U.S. there are some concerns that the more restrictive policy could also inconvenience millions of Americans and cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Effects of Reclassification

The move to reclassify hydrocodone is relatively controversial because although these kinds of opioid painkillers are highly addictive and can act as gateway drugs to heroin, there are also an estimated 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain. Moving hydrocodone to Schedule II means that it has a high potential for harm and abuse with some accepted medical uses.

Under Schedule II the drug may be more difficult to obtain through a prescription even for people with legitimate pain problems requiring opioids for relief. Once the rule takes effect in early October, even commonly prescribed drugs like Vicodin can only be prescribed by a doctor for a 90 day period and patients will not be able to call for refills through a pharmacy.

To receive more of the drug patients will have to be seen by a doctor to get a new prescription. In the past patients could easily receive a supply of hydrocodone combination drugs for up to 180 days. While pure hydrocodone is already classified as a Schedule II drug, the new rule will extend that to drugs combining hydrocodone and an over the counter pain killer like aspirin or acetaminophen.

Heroin and prescription pain killer addiction has been such a major problem in New York that the area had already pushed through a reclassification of hydrocodone in 2013. While the new ruling by the DEA will have little effect New Yorkers, it will change the way people throughout the rest of the U.S. will be receiving prescriptions and refills for their pain medication.

The restrictions created through reclassification will help to limit over-prescription and prevent any leftovers in people's homes that have great potential to be abused. While the changes for this drug may be an important step toward curbing abuse there is still potential for people to develop addictions.

Drugs like oxycodone, Ritalin and Adderall have always been Schedule II and yet are often misused and abused by patients receiving prescriptions. While the changes for hydrocodone are likely to have some impact, prescription opioid abuse remains a complicated problem that will take more effort to resolve in the future.

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