Press-Republican

March 1, 2013

Editorial: Big score in the drug war

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Press-Republican

---- — Drug abuse is nothing new. It’s just worse than ever.

Taking drugs for the high that resulted used to be the prerogative only of the well-to-do or those with connections.

The drug culture soared famously in the ‘60s, with the advent of hallucinogens and a new breed of chemicals designed more for mental than physical comfort.

Lately, the abuse of prescription pain relievers seems to be the popular drug of choice (though police will tell you that alcohol is still by far the most-abused mood enhancer, statistically).

Homemade methamphetamine also has law-enforcement people busy these days. They are involved in a non-stop vigil to uncover private “labs” all over the North Country.

Hydrocodone is a favorite of local abusers, and the state has just taken an important step to combat its spread in the non-medical community.

The National Institutes for Health website has this to say about hydrocodone: “Some hydrocodone products are used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Others are used to relieve cough. Hydrocodone is in a class of medication called opiate (narcotic) analgesics and in a class of medications called antitussives. Hydrocodone relieves pain by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain.”

It’s that brain effect that has the abusers willing to do whatever it takes to acquire it.

Here’s the other liability: “Hydrocodone may be habit-forming,” the NIH warns. Once hooked, a user may become willing to commit all manner of crimes to secure the coveted drug. And, surely, pushers will find ways to obtain it for profit.

The state is well aware of the dangers posed for the public by hydrocodone. It used to be that a drug abuser was generally harming only himself. Nowadays, innocent bystanders are vulnerable to robberies, assaults and even murders provoked by the quest for hydrocodone.

Thus, the state has elevated it to the classification of a Schedule II drug, from Schedule III. That means that, each time a patient needs a refill, it is necessary to get a separate prescription from the doctor. Automatic refills are no longer allowed.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has pushed for the legislation mandating the change to try to halt some instances of fraud and addiction before they happen.

The law will also create a database to enable doctors and pharmacists to recognize and report overuse and track the drug getting into circulation.

This is crucial legislation for patients prone to addiction. Just as important is the protections it will offer potential victims of crimes inspired by the thirst for the illegal drug.