Hydrocodone is a common prescription drug that is widely used to treat moderate to severe aches and pain. It is also effectively used as a cough suppressant. While it is very similar to the drug codeine, this narcotic analgesic is comparable strength-wise to many euphoric-style drugs, such as oxycodone, heroin, and morphine. This partially synthetic opioid drug is also known as dihydrocodone. It can be made from one of two opiates that occur naturally, which are thebaine and codeine. Hydrocodone is available in capsule, tablet, or syrup form and is administered orally.
Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed drugs in the United States. In 2010 alone, there were more than 100 million prescriptions written for the medication. Pure hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance; however, it is not typically prescribed in its pure form. Usually, hydrocodone is mixed with one or more other drugs, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and antihistamines.
The Origins of Hydrocodone
Hydrocodone was first synthesized in 1920 by two German chemists named Carl Mannich and Helene Lowenheim. The drug was not approved for use in the United States for more than 20 years after its creation; the FDA gave the drug their approval in 1943. Since that time, hydrocodone has also been approved for use in several other countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada.
The trade name for hydrocodone was originally Dicodid. This name was selected since the drug worked similar to Dilaudid and also because there were other prescription drugs released at the time with similar names, such as Dihydrin and Dinarkon.
Once the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971 was passed in the U.K., hydrocodone was classified as a Class A drug, which is the highest possible level. The drug was placed in this category after British authorities became concerned that hydrocodone could be potentially dangerous and do a substantial amount of harm if it were to be abused. However, in other parts of Europe, Dicodid is available commercially. The purest form of hydrocodone in America can be found in the prescription cough remedy Codiclear DH.
Vicodin: The Strongest Form of Hydrocodone
Vicodin is one of the most popular prescription painkillers and one that is frequently abused. This drug contains up to six times the typical dose of hydrocodone (approximately five milligrams), plus 500 milligrams of acetaminophen. While hydrocodone was first discovered in the 1920s, acetaminophen has been used ever since 1893, when it was derived from a byproduct of coal/tar distillation. While Vicodin has always been considered an excellent painkiller and cough suppressant, researchers quickly realized that patients using the drug on a regular basis built up a tolerance very slowly, causing many of them to become addicted.
Vicodin was introduced as a prescription painkiller in 1978 by Knoll Pharmaceuticals. A generic version of the drug was later released in 1983. Since 2009, there have been several attempts to force the FDA to ban the drug due to the increase in painkiller addiction. For now, the drug is still available by prescription; however, there have been stricter controls put into place on the amount that each patient is allowed to receive per month.
The Hydrocodone of the Future
The FDA has recently approved a new hydrocodone pill that is difficult for users to abuse. The medication, Hysingla ER, made by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, is designed to provide pain relief around the clock for patients who are unable to manage their pain by any other means. This tablet is designed to be taken once a day and is difficult to crush, break, or dissolve, making it less likely to be abused by snorting or injecting.
Purdue Pharmaceuticals is known for creating drugs that discourage abuse and tampering. This is their fourth drug that has been approved by the FDA. Others include their crush-resistant alternative to oxycodone and a combination drug that blocks the effects of oxycodone if the pill is crushed.
While there has been a consistent effort over the past several years to ban Vicodin and other high-strength forms of hydrocodone, it is still important that the FDA understands that there is a great need for prescription painkillers, even though the abuse rate continues to rise. Fortunately, many pharmaceutical companies are putting forth the effort to create drugs containing hydrocodone that are less likely to be abused by crushing or dissolving. This move allows the people who require the medication to eliminate their constant pain while decreasing the harmful effects of abuse.
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