Quartz: Chronic pain patients are suffering because of the US government’s ongoing War on Drugs
For Chandler, managing pain involves “an ungodly regimen of drugs, mild exercise, meditation, and profanity.” Her last resort is hydrocodone, the most commonly prescribed opiate in the US, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). She takes it in the form of Vicodin.
However, in October 2014, the DEA changed the classification of Vicodin and other hydrocodone products from Schedule III to Schedule II drugs. This means that prescriptions can no longer be called in; patients have to physically go to a pharmacy to get it filled. Prescriptions also can’t be refilled; patients have to get a new one each month. And pharmacies can’t fill partial prescriptions, or transfer medication from one pharmacy to another.
As a result, when Chandler’s pharmacy ran out of Vicodin, she couldn’t get the medication. She could have shopped around to other pharmacies, but Virginia recently began tracking opioid patients more aggressively. Chandler worried she would be flagged and investigated, making it even harder to get prescriptions in the long run. So, even though she had a legal prescription, she had to go through withdrawal.