In 2014, the Food Drug Administration (FDA) made a bold move against the opioid epidemic — approving an abuse-proof painkiller.
On November 20th, the FDA and its advisory committees gave the green light to Hysingla ER, an extended-release version of the widespread opioid hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is the chemical name of the blockbuster drug Vicodin. The controversial move comes as addiction overdose rates reach an all-time high. Whether Hysingla will help curve the epidemic isn’t known yet, and it will take a while to see the long-term effects of incorporating the drug into recovery treatments.
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Hysingla ER is the latest form of extended-release hydrocodone, and now it’s an FDA-approved drug. Following Vicodin’s massive spike in popularity (it’s currently the most prescribed and abused painkiller in the U.S.), it became clear something had to be done. The idea was to help prevent addiction to other long-acting opioids in the market.
Hydrocodone is used to help relieve symptoms of ongoing pain. It still belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid analgesics. Hysingla works in the brain to change how the body feels and responds to pain. This medication is not for occasional or as-needed use. It should be for short-term use only.
Hysingla Information to Know
Vicodin exposes its legitimate and recreational users to a host of adverse side effects. These include liver damage due to acetaminophen and addiction. So, drug companies began working on a pure form of hydrocodone that was also an “abuse-proof” painkiller.
The FDA, despite numerous doubts about its safety, approved Zohydro ER. Legislators, police officers, addiction professionals, and even the FDA’s advisory board claimed that Zohydro presented a danger to users due to its high hydrocodone (the most upper strength contains fifty milligrams of the opioid).
Once Zohydro hit the market, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency. It was reactions like these that prompted the pharmaceutical company Perdue to develop Hysingla ER.
Not everyone is so sure this new drug is safe, though. Jane Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, wrote the following:
“Prescription opioids with abuse-deterrent properties will not completely fix the prescription opioid abuse problem, but they can be part of a comprehensive approach to combat the epidemic.”
How is Hysingla and Abuse-Proof Painkiller?
No matter what side of the Hysingla debate you’re on, we can all celebrate a drug that’s difficult for addicts to abuse. Surely we can all agree on that, right?
However, Hysingla isn’t abuse-proof. Hysingla is difficult to crush. Searches for how to crush uncrushable pills rose with the launch of Hysingla. Hysingla may need some better abuse-deterrent methods.
Otherwise, it’s destined to join the ranks of the many other abuse-deterrent products that aren’t genuinely abuse-resistant.
Remember, even abuse-deterrent drugs can still be dangerous if people take multiple tablets at once. Even patients with prescription opioids can misuse these new painkillers.
Essentially, at this point, Hysingla ER’s gives patients an option that reduces liver toxicity risks. The idea is not to prescribe Hysingla as an as-needed pain relief medication. Instead, it should be an option for patients that other opioid treatments proved ineffective.
” Abuse-Proof” Pills Aren’t 100% Effective
Since the mid-2000s, there’s been a push to develop abuse-proof alternatives to popular opioid painkiller drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, and Roxicodone Vicodin.
These pills were too popular with addicts. People were overdosing left and right. A painkiller epidemic was born. While they cannot be snorted or injected, people can take more than one pill at once.
So, Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies working on developing opioids started looking into a drug that deters abuse. The only drawback, though, was that these abuse-deterrent pills were still abusable.
OxyContin formulas started to turn to gel when mixed with water. Enterprising addicts figured out a way to extract the drug from the gel. Roxicodone pills were supposedly “un-crushable.” Once again, enterprising addicts learned how to crush them.
Not to mention, as a specific pill became harder to abuse, addicts would switch to one that wasn’t so hard. This is why, by the mid and late 2000s, we saw people changing from OxyContin to Dilaudid.
This presents a powerful lesson. As long as opioid drugs are available, people will figure out ways to abuse them, whether they’re “tamper-proof” or not.
So, what’s the answer? Well, there isn’t an easy answer.
Knowledge of the destructive effects of addiction helps. Shifting the focus of addiction from a moral failing to a medical condition helps. Increased access to substance abuse treatment helps.
Now put all those things together, and we can hope to see a real solution to American’s painkiller epidemic.
Before prescribing any form of prescription painkillers, physicians need to analyze the potential addictive behaviors of their patients. It’s increasingly evident that before prescribing strong painkillers, someone should undergo a mental health assessment by a professional to determine their risks of becoming an addict.
Generally, mental health assessments are a start in the right direction. For example, someone with past depression history or a compulsive behavior should not take any form of addictive painkillers, as they’re more likely to misuse or abuse them.
Signs to Watch For
It’s always important to discuss alternative treatment options with your doctor. Before you ask for a dose increase, learn about the different prescription drugs available that don’t carry high addiction risks. Muscle relaxants are usually highly addictive and can lead to fatal overdose when combined with other substances.
Opioid overdose and withdrawal symptoms to look for include:
- Muscle aches
- Tearing eyes
- Runny nose
- Excessive sweating
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug abuse, seek help today. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction specialist team can help you find the right treatment program.
Even with “tamper-resistant” drugs, addictive behaviors don’t disappear. Instead of switching between addictions, let’s explore treating the problem at the root. Together, we’ll dig into the root cause and start healing from within.
Recovery from addiction is a long-term process, but our team commits to helping you get there. From detox rehab to long-term addiction aftercare programs, we will walk your recovery journey with you every step of the way.