AUGUST 25TH, 2014

In Move to Curb Drug Abuse, D.E.A. Tightens Rule on Widely Prescribed Painkiller — The stricter rule for hydrocodone, which is the most widely prescribed painkiller in the United States and which is an ingredient in drugs like Vicodin, is one of the most far-reaching efforts to stop the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. More than 20,000 Americans die every year because of prescription drug abuse, according to federal data.  The New York Times


On Friday, the federal government tightened the regulations on the most prescribed painkiller in America, hydrocodone. The reason? Hydrocodone is an ingredient in drugs like Vicodin and a leader in the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse here in the United States.

As a psychiatrist treating adults and teens for over 30 years, I know that painkillers like Vicodin are highly addictive and are adding to a growing heroin addiction in this country.

As far as hydrocodone, the changes that the government requires are sweeping, making it much more difficult to prescribe the drug. For this drug, doctors will no longer be able to call in prescriptions, and patients will no longer be able to get refills on the same prescription without returning to their doctor for a visit. The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) published a rule on Thursday, August 21, 2014, which also requires pharmacies to keep the drug in a vault.

The problem is that the abuse of painkillers claims more lives than any other drug including heroin and cocaine combined, and hydrocodone and other painkillers are the leading cause of heroin addiction. The heroin addiction is out of control, and I have written several blogs about it and the need for more education about the epidemic. See my blogs on heroin Governor Cuomo Recognizes Heroin Epidemic and The Growing Heroin Problem in America.

These new restrictions are not a solution to the problem, but they do acknowledge the need to do something. Oxycodone, the main ingredient in OxyContin, which I am sure many of you have heard about, is highly addictive and has been restricted for years.

The downside of restricting all of these drugs is that it will most likely lead to an increase in heroin abuse. Why? Because synthetic heroin is cheap. The reality is that it is good to be aware of the need for restricting medications like hydrocodone, but we need to also be vigilant about educating our teens and young adults, the most affected population, about the dangers of these drugs and heroin.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.