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Ask Horizon: What is Zohydro?

What is zohydroQ: I’ve been seeing the new FDA approved painkiller drug Zohydro a lot in the news.  Can you please tell me what it is and why it’s so controversial?

A: Zohydro is the extended-release formulation of the painkiller hydrocodone.  The manufacturer Zogenix® says that it’s indicated for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for which alternative treatment options are inadequate.

But some are calling Zohydro ER “America’s Deadliest New Drug.”

The FDA approval of Zohydro ER, has caused a tremendous uproar.  Many have major concerns about the abuse potential of this drug as it is the first prescription narcotic that provides a pure dose of hydrocodone at a dose much higher (almost 10 times) than found in other pain pills like Vicodin.  Further, because of the potency of the pill, it can cause death in some in just a matter of 2 pills.

According to a recent article in the Buffalo News, Richard D. Blondell, MD, vice chair for addiction medicine at the University at Buffalo said, “We already have a prescription drug problem and the way this drug is packaged makes it easy to abuse. Zohydro is just another opiate product in a market that’s already flooded with them.”

Proponents of the drug say that even though there is abuse potential, there are some patients that actually need this level of pain management.  The drug should be prescribed only when alternative treatment options are inadequate.

Painkiller abuse is a growing epidemic.  In fact, prescription opioid deaths rose from just over 4,000 in 1999 to more than 16,500 in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you or someone you know is abusing prescription opioids and would like help, please call our knowledgeable team at Horizon 716.831.1800.  We offer inpatient substance abuse rehab, detox at Horizon Village Terrace House and outpatient counseling services.  We will work with you to find a best fit approach to leading you on the path to recovery.