Devil’s Advocate: Regulating drugs and prescribers will lessen drug abuse

In Devil's Advocate, Opinion
Courtesy of MCT
Courtesy of MCT

The Food and Drug Administration would like to see higher restrictions put on the leading ingredient in Vicodin, hydrocodone. And most would argue for compelling reasons. The current argument up for debate is whether higher restrictions should be put on the drug or the physicians who prescribe it.

The answer is both.

Raising this drug to a Schedule II narcotic will automatically make this drug harder for physicians to prescribe it. As a Schedule II, the U.S. Justice Department reports Vicodin will fall under restrictions such as no automatic refills and no oral prescriptions.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 36 states, including California, currently have prescription drug monitoring programs. This program utilizes state run electronic databases to help monitor not only patients at risk of abuse but prescribers who “clearly deviate from accepted medical practice” as well.

The CDC also reported, “More than three out of four people who misuse prescription painkillers use drugs prescribed to someone else.” As such, there seems an obvious need to focus on monitoring the drug itself which can be accomplished through reclassifying this ingredient to a Schedule II.

This is a national epidemic sweeping through the U.S. The CDC reported in 2012 that prescription drug overdoses have tripled since 1990. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported a steady increase from 2002 in the age groups from 12-17 who take prescription drugs for nonmedical use.

Among those identified as 12th graders, Vicodin was the most commonly abused drug.

In 2009 emergency department visits doubled from 2004 with cases that involved prescription drug abuse.

On top of all this, reports a rising trend in Orange County in the numbers of teens and young adults overdosing on prescription drugs and heroin. Officials have even found evidence linking the rise in heroin overdoses being due to the affordability of prescription drug abuse.

Many parents in Orange County are urging for help with this problem. They want people to be informed of this rising epidemic that is cutting many lives far too short. They have fought back with documentaries such as “Behind the Orange Curtain,” a film that documents testimonies of outraged  parents who have lost their children to addiction.

And for those who believe it is a long step from Vicodin to heroin, think again. “Behind the Orange Curtain” suggests many heroin users start using to save money.

Although this research is very new, the testimonies are coming from addicts themselves that they were starting these addictions as young as 13 and 14 years of age with prescriptions for high school athletic injuries and dental work. Many claim that they began heroin by 17 and 18 years of age.

According to the CDC, access to these prescriptions are easy, confirmed by addicts who rifled through their family medicine cabinets in order to get high. Some addicts even report to selling discarded prescriptions of dying family members.

Statistics alone are not enough to bring the national spotlight to this growing epidemic. The efforts put forth by the community and the burdened parents do best in representing the victims. “Behind the Orange Curtain” brought the faces of the victims and the faces of their parents into light.

Inventive ideas like these help make the connection that these aren’t just statistics, these are our children, but it can only do so much.

If we cannot protect them, then hopefully higher regulation can.

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