Vicodin Classification Makes the Drug Easier to Give to Patients Than Other Opiates

Vicodin, one of the widely prescribed prescription painkillers is also the least restricted of the opiate drug category, a situation recent national news and medical reports are emphasizing.

Vicodin in its generic form, a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, is listed by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule III – the same class as many types of anesthetics or steroid drugs. In comparison, codeine and the prescription opioid oxycodone are listed as a Schedule II. At the highest restriction, Schedule I, are drugs like heroin.

Unlike many other opiates, Vicodin prescriptions can be accessed by a physician’s telephone order, even though the addictive potential is believed by many health experts to be the same as drugs like heroin. By itself, the drug hydrocodone may not be as easy to prescribe, as it carries a Schedule II category listing. When acetaminophen is added, however, hydrocodone combinations like Vicodin become listed at Schedule III.

Pain clinic experts say the drug’s Schedule III classification means physicians may also assume that prescribing Vicodin carries less danger for addiction than other similar drugs, and may assume they may not face harsh DEA penalties for offering Vicodin often to patients.

In several states, there are specific regulations connected to DEA drug scheduling, which can allow for easier and more frequent distributions of generic painkillers – not only generic Vicodin, but for medications like Percocet, which is a Schedule II.

Loss of life from accidental overdose of prescription painkillers has grown in numbers to a level beyond even deaths from both heroin and cocaine. More people die from accidental overdose of prescription painkillers in some states than in car accidents, and new federal initiatives are aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse rates by several percent in the next five years.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.