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DEA to Tighten Access to Some Narcotic Painkillers

Drugs containing hydrocodone, which include Vicodin, would be affected
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The new regulations, Kean added, should reduce the availability of "prescription drugs developed for excruciating pain from being used to treat much less severe ailments like dental procedures or minor surgery."

But she foresees potential problems with the stricter regulations. "With access to drugs like Vicodin and Percocet limited by the regulations and harder to obtain, we may end up seeing a trend of [teens] skipping the pills and going straight to heroin," she said.

The regulation of prescription painkillers has been a contentious issue.

Supporters of a move to a more restrictive Schedule II status pointed to tragic deaths and suicides that have been the result of misuse of these prescription drugs.

But, opponents of the tougher classification fear that tightening access to the drugs would mean that people who really need them to ease pain would not be able to get them.

Few people dispute the fact that too many of these opioid drugs are too widely available, even though the pharmaceutical industry has recently developed "abuse-resistant" formulations to help fight misuse.

Overall, some 22 million Americans have misused prescription painkillers of one kind or another since 2002, according to a report released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The agency noted that prescription painkillers now rank only behind marijuana as a drug of abuse in the United States.

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