How the New Hydrocodone Regulations Could Affect Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse in America has reached epidemic proportions report findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Many people are shocked to realize they are part of the problem. They do not know that using medication without a personal prescription, taking it in a way other than how the doctor has prescribed it or ingesting it to alter an emotional state, constitutes an illegal act in the eyes of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Lack of public awareness is one reason prescription drugs used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders and anxiety are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana.

Many people, however, are fully informed about prescription drug abuse and admit to abusing medications like tramdol to get high. People who steal pills fall under this category. A study conducted by the University of Texas revealed that the most common reasons teenagers gave for using prescription drugs were their availability and accessibility. These findings are supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration experts. They say most prescription drugs used for illicit purposes are obtained for free from friends or relatives. In short people who abuse prescription drugs often do so with their eyes wide open.

Now the government is fighting back with new regulations especially for a medication that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone: A Deadly Killer

Hydrocodone is a powerful painkiller with a high abuse potential. Used to treat severe acute pain as well as various types of chronic pain, it targets the same brain receptors as heroin causing euphoria. For this reason pain management with opioid therapy carries a high risk of addiction. Statistics show that from 1991 to 2007, the annual numbers of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers nearly tripled, from roughly 76 million to almost 210 million according to researchers at Columbia University. The death toll from hydrocodone is staggering. More people now die from painkiller overdoses than are killed by heroin or cocaine. Adolescents and young adults are hit hardest with record numbers of 46 fatalities being reported daily by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fighting Back: New Regulations

Starting this fall new federal regulations are in effect for more than 60 products containing the hydrocodone. The drug is being moved from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug putting it in the same class as the painkiller oxycodone.

The majority of prescription drugs—blood pressure drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs and arthritis drugs—are not scheduled because the are not considered to have potential for abuse. Drugs such as hydrocodone are scheduled differently based on three factors: their potential for abuse or misuse, the potential that misuse could cause addiction (psychological or physical dependence) and whether it has an accepted, current medical use. Changing the classification of hydrocodone will result in effects that include the following:

  • Doctors will no longer be able to call in those prescriptions to pharmacies. Only paper copies of prescriptions will be accepted.
  • Refills will not be allowed.
  • New prescriptions will be necessary every single time.

The new rules will sharply reduce how many pills a doctor can prescribe at one time. For instance under schedule III a physician could prescribe a six-month supply of hydrocodone as a 30-day prescription with up to five refills. Now only a three-month supply will be allowed. Additionally the new rule mandates that doctors must write the prescriptions in 30-day increments that can only be filled sequentially. Pain patients using hydrocodone will need to schedule an appointment with the doctors every three months for a new prescription. Manufacturers and pharmacies will also be required to change protocol as the new regulations adds layers of rules they must follow to comply with tighter security measures and more extensive record requirements.

Taking Charge: Ways to Monitor Yourself

Although government action may address certain aspects of the problem, the best way to protect yourself against hydrocodone addiction is to stay informed and be your own advocate. Some doctors are naïve about prescription medication dangers, so is essential that you be honest and thorough in your communications. Information you should share during your appointment includes the following:

  • How the medication affects you
  • How you take the medication
  • Past substance abuse history
  • Family addiction history

Remember to trust your intuition. If you have concerns about your painkiller use, chances are you may need professional help. It is never too soon to gather information and assess your risk. Healthcare practitioners can evaluate your situation and help you formulate an action plan that could preempt years of suffering and possibly save your life.

Help for Hydrocodone Addiction

With the right recovery treatment, it is possible to overcome hydrocodone abuse. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction to prescription drugs like tramadol, please call our toll-free number. We are here to help and can provide information about treatment. Our admissions coordinators are available to help 24-hours a day. Please call now.