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New Availability of High-Dose Opiates on the Horizon

Prescription Drug Abuse
New Availability of High-Dose Opiates on the Horizon

New Availability of High-Dose Opiates on the Horizon

The abuse of prescription painkillers is changing the face of drug addiction, the strategies for treatment and plans for prevention. Many who abuse opioids began using them for a legitimate chronic pain condition and soon found that the pain required more and more of the drug to treat it.

Complicating the problem is a lack of effective tracking of prescriptions and physicians connected to those prescriptions. A system in which patients could be monitored for their prescriptions between doctors’ offices and pharmacies would prevent users from obtaining multiple prescriptions for the painkillers.

An article recently published in the Huffington Post detailed new information about an expected change in the availability of prescription opiates. Hydrocodone is currently sold under various market names, such as Vicodin, and is available in 5, 7.5 and 10 mg doses.

There are currently four pharmaceutical companies working to develop a significantly higher dose of hydrocodone for the market. The new product would contain pure hydrocodone, and one company, Zogenix, is reportedly only about a year from applying for approval. The drug, if approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could be available within two years.

The new drug would be offered in doses of up to 50 mg of hydrocodone. The manufacturers developing the new drug insist that there are legitimate needs for this level of dosage.

Drug addiction experts, however, worry that the higher dosage of hydrocodone may spell trouble for an already problematic situation. For instance, Oxycontin, a substantially higher dose of oxycodone than previously available, is now the most-abused prescription painkiller.

While Oxycontin was a successful product for its developer, Purdue Pharma, its introduction also resulted in a high level of overdoses leading to medical emergencies, as well as an increased level of drug addiction because of its misuse.

Both oxycodone and hydrocodone are synthetic opiates and are in the same class of drugs as heroin and opium. When the drugs are discussed as prescription painkillers with patients suffering from chronic pain, however, the likelihood of abuse and addiction may seem remote.

While some of the abuse of drugs like hydrocodone begins with a chronic pain problem, in some cases the drug is obtained from a family member’s medicine cabinet.

The abuse of prescription painkillers has dramatically escalated in recent years. The Center for Disease Control reports estimate that overdoses of these potent pills has tripled over the last decade. In addition, government reports indicate that drug overdoses eclipsed motor vehicle accidents in 2009 as a cause of death.


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