Nearly 50 percent of drug overdose fatalities in 2010 were linked to prescription painkillers. In 2010 that meant that almost 20,000 people died from misuse of a prescription medication intended to provide short-term pain relief. While some of those deaths were completely accidental, many were the result of prescription drug addiction.

Now, in 2014, fears about addiction to prescription painkillers have not gone away. If anything they’veAddiction 6 been rekindled. That’s because the FDA has just this year given the pharmaceutical company Zogenix permission to produce a new and more powerful painkiller. The new drug is called Zohydro ER and it represents the most potent form of hydrocodone ever available.

Hydrocodone is already the most often abused painkiller in the country. Until now hydrocodone was mixed with acetaminophen (active ingredient in Tylenol) and sold under popular brand names like Vicodin and Lortab. Zohydro ER will contain no acetaminophen – it is pure hydrocodone.

The other major difference between Zohydro ER and other forms of hydrocodone has to do with how long the drug’s effects last. Current forms of hydrocodone are fast-acting and doses must be repeated every several hours. But Zohydro ER is a longer-lasting, extended release tablet which means that one pill will deliver more painkilling power.

These differences also mean that Zohydro could well pose a greater risk for addiction. The new drug is more powerful and has no built-in protections against crushing which makes it an ideal target for abusers looking for a powerful pill they can pulverize and then snort or inject. Other prescription painkillers have been reformulated to protect against this kind of abuse. Not Zohydro.

Setting aside the medical arguments about whether or not opioids like hydrocodone are even effective in treating chronic pain, plenty of people are raising their eyebrows and their voices against the FDA’s decision to release Zohydro. The addiction threat is just too great.

Meanwhile, if you or someone close to you is already struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs or any kind of drug, contact the addiction specialists at Family Guidance.