Policy/Biz

Hydrocodone’s Move To Stricter Schedule 2 Enacted This Week, But What We Really Need Are Better Ways To Manage Pain

drugs
Obtaining your hydrocodone prescription has just become a lot more difficult. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This week marks the debut of hydrocodone's move from a Schedule 3 drug to the more restrictive Schedule 2. The move has been met with a fair amount of criticism, with many worrying that rather than curbing the levels of drug misuse, the reclassification will make life harder for those who actually need the drug. As America begins to truly recognize the severity of widespread prescription drug abuse, we have to wonder: Is the problem too much access or insufficient treatment options?  

Although the decision to move hydrocodone from a Schedule 3 to Schedule 2 was made in August, it was first enacted on Monday, Oct. 6, Fox News reported. Now, drugs such as Vicodin, Lorcet, and Lortab will become more difficult to obtain for both abusers and true patients. As of Monday, those who need prescriptions for these drugs are required to have a handwritten prescription on paper, will no longer be offered refills, and prescriptions will only be good for six months from the date written. “The spirit of (the new rule) is every time the medicine is dispensed, the doctor is supposed to make a conscious review of the case and a decision to write a new prescription,” Dr. Robert Swarm, chief of pain management at Washington University in St. Louis, told The Spokesman Review.

The overall goal of the new drug classification is to reduce the amount of drug abuse, and subsequently drug-induced deaths in the United States. “Almost seven million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents,” Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart explained in a DEA press release. Also, often individuals who become hooked on prescription pain medication will move on to heroin, a cheaper and chemically similar alternative.

The move of hydrocodone to a stricter drug classification aims to reduce the drug’s availability, but as reported by Time, many of those addicted to these medicines do not receive their first dose from a doctor’s prescription. More than two-thirds of those who used opioids (a class that hydrocodone belongs to) in 2010-1022 obtained the medication from friends or relatives for free, mostly with their permission.  The change in scheduling will not change the fact that many patients legitimately need pain relief, and at the moment, these prescription pain medications are the only option.

Hydrocodone belongs to a family of drugs called narcotics, which work by binding to receptors in the brain and blocking the sensation of pain, but scientists are currently working on non-narcotic methods of pain management, Medical Daily reported. 

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