The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has decided to list Hydrocodone combination products as Schedule II drugs instead of Schedule III substances.
This move is made to tighten the restrictions regulating how these drugs may be prescribed. The change is also expected to help the fight against illegal drugs on the local level. It will also make the illegal sale of these drugs more costly in terms of penalties and this decision was applauded on the local and state level.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said this move will help to place some needed controls on these drugs, and hopefully make it harder for people to abuse them. Morrisey added our office sent a letter to the DEA in March urging the change, and we are hopeful that this will be a positive step in fighting and preventing the scourge of prescription drug abuse in our state and the nation.
Drugs and other controlled substances are ranked by the DEA with a drug schedule. The DEA follows a five-level ranking that goes from the most dangerous ones to the one with the minimum potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs (such as ecstasy and heroin) have a high potential for abuse and have no current accepted medical use, while Schedule II drugs (such as methamphetamine, hydromorphone, and methadone) are substances with a high potential for abuse. Schedule III drugs (such as anabolic steroids and ketamine) have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological abuse.
Morrisey said this reclassification will not prevent people who need these drugs like Lortab and Vicodin to relieve chronic pain. Usually, Schedule II drugs require handwritten prescriptions with no refills, as well as other restrictions. On the other hand, Schedule III drugs may be written or called in to a pharmacy and be refilled five times within six months.
Sgt. J.S. McCarty, coordinator of the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, said the reclassification would be of great use against illegal drugs on the local level. He added one of the most important factors is that the penalties get stiffer. McCarty also remarked there will hopefully be more of a deterrent factor. In the past, substances such as the hydrocodone drugs that did not carry a strong penalty were routinely being sold in McDowell, Mercer, and Wyoming counties. The new classification may mean the difference between times spent in a city jail to time being served in prison for drug dealers, said Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt.
Decision of the DEA was praised by In Washington D.C. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who remarked job vacancies cannot be filled because of failed drug tests and family lives are ripped apart because of addiction and overdose deaths. Manchin added these circumstances are too common and simply unacceptable, which is why he is so grateful that the DEA has finalized the rescheduling process of hydrocodone. He however added although there is much more that must be done to curb prescription drug abuse, he is confident that rescheduling hydrocodone will undoubtedly begin saving hundreds of thousands of lives immediately.