SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Commonly prescribed pain medications such as Vicodin, Lorcet and Lortab all contain hydrocodone, and according to the Drug Enforcement Administration are all highly addictive.
"Unfortunately, prescription pain abuse is a problem throughout the entire United States, and Southern Mississippi is no exception," Gulfport DEA Resident Agent in Charge Robert Donovan said.
Last year, the DEA reported nearly 137 million prescriptions containing hydrocodone were filled across the country.
"Hydrocodone wasn't intended to be a long term pain management tool. It was meant to be a short term pain management tool," Donovan said. "With higher levels of abuse, what the DEA is trying to do is bring all of its resources to combating the problem."
Beginning this week, the DEA considers all drugs containing hydrocodone a scheduled two narcotic. What this means is patients will have to see their doctors every time they need a prescription for any drug containing hydrocodone. No refills will be allowed without a doctor visit. Prescriptions cannot be called in over the phone or prescribed electronically.
"Prescription drug abuse is a big problem," Dr. Kaizad Tamboli said. "I believe this is a good thing, because we can closely monitor the patient. We can follow up with them, and we can adjust their dosing as they need it."
Tamboli said some of his patients with chronic pain from diseases, such as cancer and arthritis, are prescribed drugs with hydrocodone.
"We try patients on other alternatives that do not have narcotics or narcotic abuse potential, but certain people, given their medical issues, need narcotics for chronic pain control," said Tamboli.
One thing the DEA wants to stress is those patients who do need the drug will still be able to get it.
"We don't tell doctors how to treat their patients," Donovan said. "What this rescheduling does is restrict the ability to give long term prescriptions, and that helps cut back on these people trying to get large quantities of the drug and be able to sell it on the street."
Anyone who has a refill prescription for medication that contains hydrocodone has until April 8, 2015, to use the refills.