The stoner lobby would like us all to believe that Legalization Day is just around the corner and the momentum for an end to the war on drugs is irresistibly rising.It ain’t, and this AP story (h/t NY Times) helps explain why. The FDA has been slow to tighten controls over one of the most dangerous (and also one of the most helpful) pain drugs in the country, and pressure is rising to change that.
NEW YORK (AP) — It is the nation’s second-most abused medicine, linked to murders, celebrity overdoses and a rising tide of violent pharmacy robberies. But since 1999 federal regulators have put off deciding whether to tighten controls over hydrocodone, the addictive narcotic that is the key ingredient in Vicodin and other medicines.The Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration insist they are still actively studying whether to move hydrocodone-containing medicines from the Schedule III category of medicines to the more restrictive Schedule II. But the 12-year delay is frustrating drug treatment counselors, lawmakers and relatives of overdose victims.“They’re not doing a darn thing,” said Robert DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, a Rockville, Md.-based think tank. “There’s no study that takes 12 years. When you think how many people have died of hydrocodone overdoses, it’s inexcusable.”Nationally, emergency room visits related to non-medical hydrocodone use have quadrupled since 2000 — from 19,221 to 86,258 in 2009. In Florida alone, hydrocodone caused 910 deaths and contributed to 1,803 others between 2003 and 2007. Actors Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy and Corey Haim all died from drug cocktails containing it.A DEA review of police drug labs shows seizures of hydrocodone-containing pills number second only to those of oxycodone, the narcotic used in drugs like OxyContin and Percocet. Hydrocodone seizures have soared from 13,659 in 2001 to 44,815 in 2010.In March, alarmed by the rising rates of abuse, 58 members of Congress filed a bill that would bypass the DEA and FDA’s rulemaking process and tighten controls on hydrocodone.“The FDA is about controlling dangerous drugs, and they’re just not doing their job here,” said Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., one of the bill’s sponsors.
The US is nowhere near coming to terms with the consequences of cheap, addictive, mood enhancing and/or pain relieving drugs of growing power for both good and ill. This is a messy, intractable problem and our policies around it — reflecting the conflicting beliefs and impulses of a divided public — are going to be inefficient, ineffective and ugly as far as the eye can see.That’s a prediction, not a recommendation.