Hydrocodone is a painkiller in the drug class of opioids. It is only available when paired with another ingredient, such as aspirin or acetaminophen, and is used mainly to alleviate pain. When combined with other medicine such as guaifenesin, hydrocodone can be prescribed to alleviate severe coughing spells. The reason hydrocodone is paired with a secondary medicine is to help prevent addiction. According to the National Institute of Health, common brand names for hydrocodone-based products include the following:
- Lorcet Plus
- Codiclear DH
- Atuss HD
- Lortuss HC
Because hydrocodone is used for pain, it can make the user feel euphoric and relaxed simultaneously. This high is the reason why many people start taking hydrocodone non-medically, and oftentimes this abuse turns into addiction.
Understanding Drug Classifications
To understand the new regulations regarding hydrocodone, you must first understand how the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies drugs. The DEA classifies drugs in groups called schedules. These schedules are based on the acceptable medical use and the drug’s potential for abuse or addiction. The drug schedules set by the DEA include the following:
- Schedule I – These substances have no accepted medical use currently. They also have a high abuse potential. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous of all and can cause severe psychological and/or physical dependence. Drugs in this category include heroin, LSD, marijuana, peyote and ecstasy.
- Schedule II – These drugs have a high potential for abuse but less potential than drugs in Schedule I. Unlike Schedule I drugs the some drugs in Schedule II have an accepted medical use. Drugs in this category include Demerol, oxycodone (OxyContin), cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, Adderall and Ritalin.
- Schedule III – These drugs have a moderate to low potential of abuse or addiction. They have more potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs. Examples of drugs in this category include hydrocodone combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), anabolic steroids and testosterone.
- Schedule IV – These drugs have a low potential for abuse but have an approved medical use. Drugs in this category include Xanax, Ativan, Valium and Ambien.
- Schedule V – These drugs have even lower potential for abuse than those in the other four Schedules. They contain limited quantities of narcotics, and are often used to control pain, coughing and diarrhea. Examples of drugs in this class include Lyrica, Lomotil and cough medication with less than 200 milligrams of codeine (Robitussin AC).
With each classification the DEA imposes different regulatory controls and sanctions for anyone who handles or uses the drugs. Prior to the new ruling hydrocodone-combination products (HCPs) were classified as a Schedule III drug. By itself hydrocodone has been listed among Schedule II drugs (along with oxycodone and OxyContin) since 1971 according to a 2014 article from USA Today.
The New Regulation for Hydrocodone Combination Product
Just this year the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a new regulation regarding the schedule under which HCPs would be listed moving these drugs from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug. The purpose of the change is to minimize the misuse of these drugs while making sure that people with severe pain can still have access to these drugs. According to a 2014 article from Forbes, the following new rules regulate HCPs:
- Prescriptions must be written (not faxed or phoned in) and taken to a pharmacy except for emergency situations.
- Another doctor’s visit for subsequent prescriptions is required after 90 days.
- Increased recordkeeping requirements to track patterns and identify misconduct
- New security protocols for manufacturers and pharmacies
- Changes in labeling and packaging
- Manufacturing quotas for products
- Anyone handling (manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, shipping, etc,) HCPs must register with the DEA and are subject to more stringent regulations.
These regulations are intended to curb the number of prescriptions written unnecessarily. According to the same Forbes article, in over 135 million prescriptions were written for HSPs in 2012. That number equates to one prescription for every 2.3 men, women and children in the U.S. in 2012.
Impact on Prescription Drug Abuse
Time will tell whether or not this new regulation will curb prescription drug abuse. According to an article from The Washington Post, when OxyContin was reformulated a few years ago to make it hard to abuse, heroin use skyrocketed. Between 2007 and 2012 heroin use increased 79 percent. Of first-time heroin users, 81 percent had previously used prescription drugs. While the new regulation may curb the use of one drug, addicts will likely turn to another drug of choice. The body and psyche become so used to the presence of drugs that a person will take whatever they can find to keep cravings at bay. New regulations don’t remove the symptoms of addiction.
Getting Help for Your Prescription Drug Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, we can help. You can call our toll-free helpline any time, 24 hours a day. You can talk with one of our admissions coordinators who understands the nature of addiction and its symptoms. You can discuss your situation and type of addiction, and together you can determine the best treatment options based on your income, work situation and living situation. Don’t allow prescription drugs to control your life any longer. Call us today, and start on the road of recovery.