PORTLAND –Local substance abuse prevention advocates are applauding the federal government's decision to impose tougher restrictions on the prescription narcotic hydrocodone, found in painkillers like Vicodin.
The new rules mean health care providers will no longer be able to call in hydrocodone prescriptions. Patients will need to see their doctor in person after three months instead of six to get a new prescription, and the strong opiod must be kept in special vaults at pharmacies.
"It's going to give prescribers a great tool to better regulate, so it's getting into the hands of those who need it and limiting the risk of abuse. It's a very important step," said Dwight Holton.
Holton is the CEO of Lines For Life and the former U.S. Attorney for Oregon. He hopes the federal government also makes it possible for doctors and pharmacies to received unused painkillers from patients who don't need them anymore, as unused painkillers left in medicine cabinets are ripe for abuse.
Right now, people can only take unused opiod medicines to law enforcement.
Hydrocodone is currently the most prescribed medicine in the United States, with 125 million prescriptions filled each year. But the level of abuse and deaths connected to it has risen dramatically.
Sarah Pierce is also glad to see the tougher restrictions. She became addicted to hydrocodone and other painkillers after it was prescribed to her for an injured back.
"I was on them so long that daily life became really difficult without having some sort of substance," said Pierce.
It was hard to end her addiction, but she did three years ago.
"I'm doing amazing things and I don't need any substances to do that and that is the coolest part. That is the coolest part out of all of this," she said.
Thirty-two Oregonians died last year in connection with hydrocodone use.
The new federal rules go into effect in 45 days.