The United States government has been fighting its “War on Drugs” for years. Many might argue that the war has largely been unsuccessful, but if even a few people have been saved from the horrors of drug abuse and early death, then maybe the war has been worth it. The US government uses a lot of tools to fight drug addiction in America (including arresting drug smugglers at our borders and changing health care laws to cover drug rehab for Americans.) One of the tools in this arsenal is its classification of “schedules” for various types of drugs.
Schedules are a way for the government to break down how dangerous it wants to consider the various types of drugs available in society. A schedule 2 drug, for example, is more dangerous than a schedule 3 drug. Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most dangerous because they are either highly addictive or because they have no accepted medical use. The only reason a person would be taking the drug, in other words, is because that person is trying to get high. By putting a drug in a certain classification, the government has decided how it is going to go about policing the use of that drug.
Hydrocodone is Being Rescheduled
The government periodically has to reconsider the classification that it has given a drug. This might be because new research has come out that shows a drug is more dangerous than previously believed. Another scenario is that law enforcement might find a certain drug is rising in its rate of abuse, and the government decides to combat this in part by changing its schedule.
Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug that is derived from another opioid drug called codeine. It can be used as a painkiller, but it is also used in cough treatment medicines. Since it’s less powerful than many other opioids, some drug makers use it in combination with other drugs. For years, hydrocodone by itself has been a schedule 2 drug. This was because hydrocodone could be abused, but it also had legitimate medical uses. Drugs that had hydrocodone mixed with other drugs (known as hydrocodone combination products, or HCPs), were classified as schedule 3.
In 1999, a physician petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency to reevaluate these classifications and have HCPs also moved into schedule 2. It has taken years, but the DEA has now finished its evaluation. It found that many people were abusing HCPs such as Vicodin, so these products really should be classified at a higher schedule so they can be more tightly controlled.
The Food and Drug Administration held a public advisory committee on the matter in 2013, and its members formally voted 19 to 10 to have the drug reclassified. Due to this, it made its recommendation to the DEA and the classification change is going forward.
Keeping Americans Addiction Free
Addiction to prescription drugs (especially opioid based painkillers) is one of the fastest growing segments of drug abuse in America. You might think that heroin or cocaine or any of the other drugs you frequently hear about would be more dangerous or get more Americans addicted, but painkillers are actually some of the most dangerous substances in America today.
If we want to keep our communities drug free and healthy, we need to focus more attention on handling prescription drug abuse. We can’t just demonize the “scary” drugs that appear in movies, we have to recognize that the drugs being handed out by everyday doctors could potentially be just as dangerous.
Justice.gov: DEA Publishes Proposal to Reschedule Hydrocodone http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/hq/2014/hq022714.shtml