LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The drug enforcement administration is tightening the lid on prescription painkillers as a way to curb prescription drug abuse.
According to the DEA more than seven million Americans are addicted to prescription pain killers, which are the most addictive medication available and result in more deaths than auto accidents.
"People are dying from taking this medication," said Timberland Discount Pharmacy pharmacist, Norman Bondesen.
The DEA has decided to reclassify common opioid painkillers, like Vicodin, to a schedule 2 drug, which means prescribes can no longer get refills without first visiting their doctor.
"Basically, they get one prescription on the control 2's, then they have to back to the doctor and get a written prescription," Bondesen said.
Drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into 5 distinct categories or schedules. The drugs are classified into these schedules based upon their acceptable medical use and their potential dependency or abuse.
The DEA classified opioid painkillers as schedule 2 drugs, because of their dependency and abuse potential.
Schedule 2 drugs also restrict doctors from calling in prescription pain killers.
"The patient has to physically go back to the doctor and get a written prescription. So, obviously it is harder for a doctor to do that," Bondesen said.
Hydrocodone itself has been a schedule 2 drug for years, but since the drug is so addictive the DEA decided to make painkillers with hydrocodone in them a schedule two as well, because of their highly addictive nature.
Bondesen believes it has become a problem in recent years because it is easily accessible.
"This is a drug you can legally get, so people said, 'well I can legally get this, so I don't have to go to Mexico or I don't have to find a drug dealer'," Bondesen said.
He says while these new restrictions may help curve the abuse, he hopes it doesn't stop those who truly do need it from getting it.
"It's a good pain medication; there is nothing wrong with the drug, it works well for people that need it," Bondesen said.
The DEA says the new restrictions reflect the importance of this issue, that prescription painkillers are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous medications out there.