Monday, August 22, 2011
In the last ten years the United States has seen more prescription drug abuse than ever before, especially when it comes to prescription pain killers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. While E.R. visit records continue to pile up, government officials continue to delay regulations that would tighten up the control of such drugs. In 2009, more than 86,000 ER visits were related to the non-medical use of hydrocodone. There is hardly a household in America that does not have hydrocodone in their medicine cabinet due to over prescribing and lax laws pertaining to Schedule III drugs which can be refilled up to 6 times before one is required to go back to the doctor in order to get more. Whereas Schedule II narcotics must be locked up at pharmacies and physicians can only prescribe one bottle at a time and patients must have an original prescription in order to obtain the medication. Since 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has juggled with the idea of changing Vicodin's (hydrocodone) classification from Schedule III to Schedule II but the decision continues to be pushed back.
Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiate in the United States, with more than 139 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing products dispensed in 2010 and more than 36 million in the first quarter of 2011, according to the DEA. A review of police drug labs showed that seizures of pills containing hydrocodone are second only to those of oxycodone, with almost 45,000 pills containing hydrocodone being seized in the U.S last year.
A bill was introduced in Congress in March that would tighten controls on hydrocodone, bypassing the FDA and DEA rulemaking process. Hopefully, the new bill will take effect, it will be much harder for people to obtain the drug, and surely we will see a decline in E.R. visits.