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DEA Re-Classifies Hydrocodone

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has taken a major step towards trying to fight the growing number of overdoses on prescription painkillers. They have re-classified hydrocodone to be put in on the same level as cocaine. This recent action by the DEA underscores how serious the growing epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse has become. While illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin in previous decades have been the focus of anti-drug campaigns, now the DEA has also focused on prescription painkillers as needing to be more strongly regulated. The DEA reported in a released statement that more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from auto accidents. This chilling statistic underscores how out of control prescription drug abuse has been. The problem may not have been taken as seriously because prescription drugs are legal, but now the DEA is taking a hard line about how they can be doled out.

New Restrictions Have Been Issued By The DEA

Prescription painkillers have become increasingly popular, as patients and doctors seek to help patients cope with chronic pain. But somewhere a long the way, the amounts of painkillers being given out spiraled out of control. Popular painkillers that have been commonly prescribed include: 

  • OxyContin
  • Vicodin
  • Demerol
  • Dilaudid

Vicodin, in particular, is a popular opioid that is often prescribed to help patients cope with pain. The DEA has set restrictions on how this drug can be prescribed, in efforts to lessen the epidemic of people overdosing. Previously patients could have a prescription refilled by a physician’s assistant or a nurse called in by the doctor, who wouldn’t have to meet with the patient to refill the prescription. Under the new DEA regulations only a physician can renew a prescription.

A Long Time Coming

Efforts to reform how prescription drugs are doled out have been a long time coming since research has proven how addictive these drugs can be. In fact calls to change how prescription drugs are given out have been going on for a decade. The DEA has long been concerned, but the FDA seemed to believe that the efforts needed to reclassify hydrocodone were not worth the efforts until the numbers of fatalities could no longer ethically be ignored. In 2009 alone 15,000 fatalities were reported due to prescription drug abuse. The fact that so many people were dying from a legal drug that was being doled out by the medical establishment showed that major changes needed to be made to stem the tide of deaths.

Protecting The Citizen

While some people who have gained dependencies on painkillers may dislike the new regulations, these changes by the DEA are used to protect the citizens. Prescription drugs, unfortunately, can also sometimes be considered gateway drugs, which means that after people start becoming dependent on painkillers they start seeking other, often illegal drugs to start satisfying their addiction. So these new regulations set by the DEA are meant to save citizens from developing life-threatening dependencies on drugs, which have a dangerous snowball effect in a person’s life. Now patients will have to check up with a doctor before being prescribed more painkillers after a waiting period.

This also puts more onus on doctors to act responsibly when prescribing painkillers, keeping better track of how many painkillers a patient has been prescribed, and when to cut them off. The DEA has stressed that they have made these changes, because they believed that prescription painkiller abuse has become a public health crisis. There has also been a campaign of public awareness for doctors to be more mindful about how many painkillers each patient has been prescribed. These measures will make it harder for patients to obtain copious amounts of painkillers after the initial need has passed.

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