In an effort to curb the growing opiate epidemic in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration has moved Hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II drug. Hydrocodone is an opiate painkiller usually mixed with Acetaminophen used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is the most widely prescribed medication in the United States and obviously the most prescribed narcotic painkiller as well.
The Controlled Substances Act was a bill passed by Congress as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The Controlled Substances Act is the federal drug policy in which the manufacture, possession, importation, use and distribution of certain substances is regulated. The legislation created five schedules or classifications with varying qualifications for a substance to be included in each. As a team, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration determine which substances are added, moved or removed from the five schedules.
A person can look at what schedule a drug is in and determine the safety of the drug. Drugs that are Schedule I controlled substances currently have no medical use in treatment in the United States and have a very high potential for abuse. Schedule II controlled substances in which Hydrocodone has now been placed have currently been accepted for medical use in treatment but have severe restrictions because they have a high potential for abuse.
Moving Hydrocodone from a Schedule III controlled substance to a Schedule II is in direct response to the growing opiate epidemic in our country and shows that the DEA and FDA believe it has moved up in regards to its danger to citizens of the United States. Something desperately needed to be done because hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller is the most prescribed medication in the nation. This shows that the medication was not properly classified. It is much more dangerous than it is perceived by the public. Hydrocodone most commonly known by Vicodin is commonly prescribed for pain by physicians and dentists for pain. It is the go-to medication for pain and this needs to stop. Many people who end up addicted to opiates were first introduced to opiates by a prescription written for hydrocodone either for a minor procedure or an injury.
The move from a Schedule III controlled substance to a Schedule II controlled substance has changed the way the medication can be prescribed. In the past, medical doctors or dentists were able to call in a prescription by phone for Hydrocodone to a pharmacy. This is no longer the case, unless it is an emergency. A physical written prescription must now be handed to the pharmacist. If it is an emergency, the prescription may be filled, but a written prescription must follow within 7 days. If a prescription is not given to the pharmacy within 7 days, the pharmacist will have to notify the DEA. Patients will also not be able to use the same prescription for a refill and prescriptions will not be valid after 90 days from the date they were written. Prescriptions are limited to 30-day supplies but prescribers may write up to three separate prescriptions, each for up to one-month supply. Hopefully the new classification and regulations will help cut back on some of the abuse.