Prescription painkiller abuse is an epidemic in West Virginia and all over the country.
The Food and Drug Administration is starting to make another effort to solve the problem. Officials are recommending hydrocodone combination pills such as Vicodin be considered a more addictive drug.
Hydrocodone is a Schedule III drug. This means it can cause a low level of physical dependence. Someone with a prescription can get a refill up to five times before having to pay another visit to the doctor.
The FDA wants to upgrade it to a Schedule II drug. Then it'd be seen as a drug with a high potential for abuse. By upgrading the status, doctors would be the only ones allowed to give prescriptions. Prescriptions would also be limited to 90 day amounts.
As of now nurses and physician assistants can also write prescriptions. The idea is to reduce drug abuse by cutting back the number of pills prescribed and the amount of people qualified to give them out.
Some people sell their medication for quick cash which makes it easy for people to get their hands on drugs. Doctors are saying limiting easy access to pain pills may help solve part of the problem.
Dr. Charles Ponte is a pharmacist with the WVU School of Pharmacy. He said, "It could certainly have an impact when you limit the number of people that have the legal mandate to actually write for that kind of prescription. I think the jury is out and we'll have to wait and see, but it has the potential."
A classification change isn't guaranteed, but if it happens it will be big news for people in the Mountain State. West Virginia has the highest rate of fatal overdoses in the country and most of them are caused by painkiller abuse.