In 2014, one of the most controversial legal drugs to be made available to the public was released. Known as Zohydro ER, or just Zohydro, this painkiller is hydrocodone in its purest form. Immediately after its release, the medical community, law enforcement and drug rehabs were openly voicing their concerns and for valid reasons.
At first glance Zohydro doesn't seem to be anything new. Its hydrocodone which is the opioid drug found in Vicodin. However, Vicodin contains acetaminophen; whereas, Zohydro is nothing but the opioid painkiller. It's available as an extended release formula and is highly potent. Only people in severe pain can be prescribed this drug and even then you would not receive a large prescription. Officials in the US have spoken out asking doctors to be mindful of whom they are writing these prescriptions for.
Overdoses on Painkillers
Hydrocodone with acetaminophen is heavily abused in many parts of the globe. These painkillers are easy to get and are cheaper than illegal drugs such as heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised alarms about the increase in overdoses and deaths directly related to opioid based painkillers. The most recent statistics show in 2010, 16,551 people died from painkillers whereas in 1999, there was only 4,030 deaths.
A Slow Release Medication with Powerful Effects
Historically opioid painkillers have combined acetaminophen primarily because these pills were less addictive. In the states they are a schedule 3 drug which means they can be prescribed over the phone and up to six times. Zohydro and medications like morphine and Oxycodone are scheduled 2 drugs because they are are more addicting. A doctor cannot call these prescriptions in and they cannot be refilled.
Zohydro is taken orally and slowly released over a twelve hour period. From the manufacturer's standpoints, as well as doctors, Zohydro is easier on the liver and offers people round the clock pain alleviation. You may wonder now, why such a controversy about the Zohydro ER drug?
Zohydro's Lethal Effects
The legal painkiller Zohydro is causing uproar amongst the addiction community because there is already such a profound epidemic of prescription medication abuse. Frankly, it's the last thing that needs to be introduced to such a vulnerable consumer market. Many government officials in local areas have already banned the prescribing of the drug until further precautionary measures are taken. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a member of the FedUp! activist group says "It will kill people as soon as it's released, it's a whopping dose of hydrocodone packed in an easy-to-crush capsule."
Another doctor stated a user could crush the capsule and snort or inject it. They added that there is nearly 10 times as much hydrocodone than in one Vicodin tablet. Someone who does not have a high tolerance to opioids or mistakenly take the drug could have a fatal overdose after taking just two Zohydro capsules. This is not to mention if a child accidentally consumed one capsule; it would be devastating.
What the Manufacturers Say
Zoginex is the manufacturer of Zohydro. Based in San Diego, California, they have publicly stated they are attempting to create a safer painkiller which is more 'tamper proof' than other drugs on the market. They believe Zohydro will not only lessen overdoses, but if properly administered by doctors, the addiction rate to opioids could be decreased. To add to these claims, other painkillers can be linked to liver damage and failure because of the acetaminophen. This risk is eliminated with Zohydro.
Solutions to the Problem
Some doctors are playing devil's advocate against the current Zohydro uproar. One M.D.in particular says "Zohydro ER is, for all practical purposes, neither safer nor more dangerous than many of the drugs I already prescribe with success." He continues to explain that even the tamper resistant painkillers have led to addiction amongst certain people. His solution to the problem is that Zohydro, and any other painkiller, must be prescribed with "caution and careful monitoring."
FDA Approval of Zohydro
In 2015, the FDA approved the use of Zohydro throughout the United States. European countries, Australia and Japan are expected to follow suite in the coming year. Opiate rehabs are familiar with a similar situation which saw a huge epidemic of Oxycontin addictions and still to this day, this is one of the most abused opiates.
What will happen in regards to Zohydro addictions is not yet known and there are no statistics to refer to. However, it is suspected that no matter how difficult this powerful drug may be to get, it will make its way onto the black market and into the hands of people who may already have an addiction and are looking for a stronger high. It is this very fact which has people uneasy about Zohydro and its official release.