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DEA Reclassifies Hydrocodone While Cannabis Remains Schedule I

A prescription bottle full of Hydrocodone is spilled over as more of these drugs will be distributed now that it has been labled a Schedule II drug by the DEA.

Joint Opinions

DEA Reclassifies Hydrocodone While Cannabis Remains Schedule I

No one dies of marijuana overdose. At least, no one did in 2010, according to statistics  from the Center for Disease Control. Comparatively, 16,671 people died from overdosing on opiate analgesics in 2010. In fact, the number of deaths from these drugs has tripled since 1990. Given these very stark facts, it’s surprising that opioids have remained the medical industry’s go-to treatment for pain, while opposition to medical marijuana still persists.

The use of these drugs  such as hydrocodone, morphine and methadone has risen dramatically even as the rate of overdoses has risen and illegal abuse persists. The well-known drug Vicodin is the original brand name for a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. According to one study, the rise in use of these drugs has almost doubled over the past 10 years. In 2010, for instance, pharmacies dispensed a total of 69 tons of pure oxycodone – astonishingly, enough to give everyone in America 40 5-mg Percocets.

This might seem totally unsurprising to patients who sometimes receive large prescriptions of 30 or more pills for what might actually be minor amounts of pain. It’s not uncommon to hear anecdotes from drug users about hoarding leftover prescription Vicodin for later recreational use. It’s strange to think that the pharmaceutical industry unwittingly supplies drugs for patients to recreationally abuse – patients who wouldn’t otherwise seek the drug out. Illegal distribution systems for prescription drugs persist. In major metropolitan areas such as New York City there have been recent widely publicized busts of so-called “pill mills” – unscrupulous medical clinics that essentially function as drug suppliers for the illegal drug trade.

Unfortunately, none of the regulations surrounding these drugs have done anything to prevent an epidemic of prescription drug abuse – although recent regulations coming from the DEA could change that. The federal government announced just last week that the rules for hydrocodone prescriptions have been significantly tightened. Hydrocodone-based drugs will now be a Schedule II drug (along with drugs like cocaine and powdered opium) rather than a Schedule III drug which they have been since the passing of the Controlled Substances Act.

These new rules, which have yet to go into effect, will mean that patients will no longer be able to have their prescriptions phoned in or get refills from the same prescriptions. Pharmacies will be required to keep the drug in special vaults. Some, however, object to these new rules, which they argue will just make it harder for people who need the drugs to get them. Patients with chronic pain, for instance, are also likely to have conditions that make it difficult for them to get to the doctor.

There is, however, another way to reduce reliance on these drugs while increasing their efficacy: medical marijuana. Researchers have long known that prescribing medical marijuana can help doctors lessen the dosage of prescribed painkillers for their patients. Treating pain with this combination isn’t only safer but also more effective. Patients treated with medical marijuana report experiencing less pain even while having a lower amount of opioids in their bloodstream. It begs to question: if a new pharmaceutical product (without the cultural baggage of marijuana) from Pfizer or Merck achieved a similar level of efficacy, would anyone oppose it?

Given all of this information, it’s hardly surprising that medical marijuana would seem to be reducing the number of overdoses from painkillers. It’s a bit surprising that it reduced overdoses by as much as 25 percent. According to an article on, researchers expected to find a difference but not one this large. Let’s put it this way: medical marijuana not only helps people with chronic pain, it also saves their lives. It’s important to note that the frequency of opiate overdoses also climbed in states with medical marijuana laws, but did so much slower than in states that did not allow medical marijuana.

It seems likely that this research could help pave the way for a larger role for medical marijuana. This evidence could help provide strong arguments for advocates of legalization in states without medical marijuana laws. It could also help persuade another constituency that remains surprisingly resistant its use like doctors in states where it has been legalized. Despite its legalization, a stigma against its prescription persists among doctors. In Colorado, a surprising 46 percent of family doctors were opposed to its prescription. Given the efficacy and relative safety of marijuana and the continuing rise in opiate overdoses, it seems that this attitude might come to be seen as not just reactionary, but also dangerously foolish.

Do you think cannabis should still be considered a schedule I substance? Tell us what you think below.



  1. Stan

    January 11, 2015 at 4:38 am

    How many Dr. are politicians in congress? Yet they keep marijuana on schedule 1 status. About as dumb as a box of rocks!

  2. Curtis

    September 17, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Sorry, there is NO oxycodone in Vicodin lmao! If you wish to be seen as credible please proofread and fact check first……..other than that, yeah!!!! Pills=bad MMJ=good.

  3. Cody

    September 6, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I strongly feel that people take marijuana as a joke such as the date 420 and the phrase “420 blaze it”. This is the reason why some to most people in our society. Tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC) has been questioned for too long. I say legalize it all over the United States. Think about this too: Cigarettes are just as bad as marijuana and we know how bad it is to smoke cigarettes, yet we still market them in drug stores, gas stations, and some pharmacies. And we’ve known how bad cigarettes and tobacco products are for an extreme length of time. I say legalize marijuana.

  4. MJ

    September 5, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I am a chronic pain patient. I want nothing more than to never take another pill! Ironically I’m forced to sign a document saying I’ll not touch any street drugs, they include marijuana in this. It’s appalling that I can’t use marijuana even if it helps tremendously and I’m forced to take pills. This all needs to change. In my state medical marijuana is approved but yet it’s impossible to get a card. The whole thing is rediculous. Legalize now! At least get it off schedule 1

    • mary

      September 6, 2014 at 9:10 am

      1 year ago I was dx with ovarian cancer stage 2. the result was complete hysterectomy and 2 sessions of chemo due to intolerance of TX. The norco was of NO use. I am an addict clean 13yrs and went straight to marijuana for TX. I have been a medical assistant front and back office for 20 years.chemo as well as marijuana is a known preventative action taken in this disease. Lost so much weight i was supposed to be hospitalized,where more Rx drugs would have been given. received a medical marijuana license and started trying the many options available in California and found the shops very helpful.
      As a recovering addict I feel this is my safest option for prevention & recovery. I very much need tx still as it has not yet been a year,but chemo sucked my will to survive,want to survive,much less want to wake up.
      Thanks to marijuana i can eat sleep and finally head towards what I feel is recovery and not just survival.

  5. Lynn Walsh

    September 5, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Must be removed from schedule one for freedom of research. A number of companies are already working to identify which cannabinoids most successfully treat given diseases and then hybridizing plants to be high in those particular cannabinoids. They are doing this the right way! They are Canadian and U.S. Companies who for now must grow plants in Spain, Italy and other countries but the work is progressing and the results will be real plant material available in various forms scientifically produced to treat specific diseases! With documentation and proof, western medicine will have to eventually take notice. It will be a long and uphill battle but there are some U.S. Doctors who see the efficacy of studying marijuana as medicine and it must be removed from the schedule one list so they can do so. In addition. Research labs need to be able to grow their own plants and not depend on government supplied strains!

  6. Shauna

    September 5, 2014 at 5:04 am

    I was put on Hydrocodone after having surgery. My doctor was not bothered by the amounts he was prescribing me. It wasnt long before I was addicted to them and spending thousands of dollars buying them on the streets and “doctor hopping”. I have smoked marijuana for years, but had quit when I was taking the pain meds. I had to get on methadone to rid the prescription pill habit. Both the methadone and hydrocodone had serious side affects on me, but I was desperate to feed the beast. After 3 years, I was finally able to get off all pain medication, including the methadone. It took me 6 months to fully recover from the sickness your body endures when having withdraws from these medications. Marijuana was the only thing that helped me through it all. And to this day, marijuana is still the only substance I will consume for pain. I have had 4 more surgeries since and I refuse all pain medication to the doctors. I will not go through that again. Marijuana does not have these effects on the body nor is it addictive. Helpful, yes, but not addictive. My doctors now are fully aware that I smoke weed and are understandable about the fact that I refuse to take pain meds. Yes, they warn me about how dangerous weed is on the lungs, but I then argue that pain meds are very dangerous on the liver and kidneys.

  7. Alfred Flacco

    September 5, 2014 at 3:48 am

    yes people have died under the influence of marijuana. But doing stupid shit while they’re under the influence.if this is going to be made legal I better have the same warnings as smoking and drinking.alcoholic beverages.but I personally will not be using any of the above.and the reason why people don’t remember anything happening with marijuana is because it’s one of the side effects you don’t remember shit.

    • scott p

      September 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Utter nonsense lol

      • John Smith

        December 19, 2015 at 10:07 am

        I would not classify that as utter nonsense. I witnessed the memory effects caused by excessive marijuana consumption. A friend started working with me at a very easy job, and for 6 weeks or so he seemed to struggle to learn the job. I told him to lay off the weed for a little bit, and the result was immediately noticeable. Then once he learned the job, he went back to smoking regularly and still excelled at the job (long term memory is not affected). People dying of doing stupid things on the other hand… I would love to see proof that they were not already doing stupid stuff without the pot. Sure, maybe they got more stupid on pot. People should not drive while high, as it is clear that reaction time is affected. The only stories I have heard of people dying from marijuana has been when other substances were used to lace the pot, like formaldehyde. So, realistically, it wasn’t the pot that killed the person (or person the smoker murdered), but the substance added to the weed. I think labeling marijuana similar to tobacco and alcohol is a fine idea, but throwing people in jail for it and denying sick people helpful treatment is just insane.

  8. tina

    September 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I heard the idea say they were not the agancey to even re schedule it. I to have been helped and am also at pain management. I have gone from 1 Vidicon 4x a day with a 24 hour timed released to 0 it has made a world of difference. I do have to use injection therapy. I can so far no one has said anything. I understand it is just a matter of time before my tests they will look and do there job. Or maybe my insurance is too good!

  9. lou Beransen

    September 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I live in chronic pain and the opioids don’t work we need medical cannabis to get a little euphoria with out that this pain can drive u crazy ur brain needs a break from the pain I’ve been suffering for 35 yrs I think I know

  10. Mathew

    September 4, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Legalize weed in every country.
    Everyone will be happy.

  11. Julie Morris

    September 3, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I am a cronic pain sufferer and i am on hydrocodone as well as spinal injections i agree medical marijuana is a much better alternative but im in a state of zero tolerance so i can’t smoke it for any reason or i loose my scripts and shots it just sucks marijuana is all natural and shouldn’t even be classified as a drug at all

  12. Juan Leonardo Vargas

    September 3, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    I’m not going to do you an injustice by commenting on anyone else although I must agree with everyone,especially NORCALNATIVE.Your comment is right on,that’s exactly why,bigger players in this game and the prize is of course huge.Thank You….

  13. Norma

    September 3, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    No, I do not believe cannabis needs to be in the scheduling at all. Its a plant and is a gift from God. Its been around since the beginning of time. So you don’t put any constraints on it period. Back in the day you couldn’t patent a plant so what’s up with this? It needs to be available in the form of the whole plant with no constraints of any kind. God would not give us something that would harm his children. Only man made drugs are doing all the killing. Which in fact is the devil. Think about the last sentence I just said very carefully. Tobacco, alcohol and drugs are the devil’s devices. Because that evil spirit is out to kill, steal and destroy. So government needs to act and act fast and legalize what God has given to us. It will make for a much better world. Amen

  14. Eric

    September 3, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I had a problem with pills, meth really anything that would get me high cannabis and great friends that helped me through tough Times and didn’t like what i was doing but they still had faith in me as i am God’s child! I have been clean almost 3years what im saying pills will take your life and ruin all you touch! One day at a time!anyone can stop if they believe in god & have a relationship with the bigg man !livelaughlove #family

  15. Chris Harrell

    September 3, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Now I’m sure what I have to say will not make it to anyone’s desk or laptop. But I believe that the FDA and the government go hand in hand. This life that we live in is like the saying “do as I say and not as I do” the reason I say that is because our governments doesn’t want the working people to get the pay they deserve, but pass them up for a raise and all hell breaks lose. Now with drugs there are cops that are killing unarmed people and abusing their power and would rather go after the petty crimes such as marijuana that has never reported a death from consumption. But yet they allow all these other pills to flow freely knowing the side effects and the harms behind them. But that’s just it no one in higher power cares about us and what we have to endure weather it be looking behind our backs in fear of being shot and killed or having the freedom of taking pills that we know can kill us but I guess that’s what the govereny wants is for us to eventually kill ourselves off so that they are the only ones living because from the looks of it we are all the guinea pigs and they are all the mad scientists and they make the rules while we have to obey them regulardless of the outcome what happened to freedom and freedom of speech it’s all went out the window I just wish congress and all the high elected officials would get there heads outta there asses and actually work together to make our country the place that it was suppose to be and what we try so hard to preach but never follow through. Now these are only my thoughts and although I know it was random but there’s so much to say and I know it won’t go anywhere I just had to vent

  16. Shawn Dreadin

    September 3, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Of course not, it never should have been given that type of classification in the first place!!

  17. Jean Larson

    September 1, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I’m all for legalizing marajuana and doing medical research with it. But… I get very paranoid using it, drive a lot and am in constant pain. How would it help somebody like me. Tightening the laws on the only thing that does help, the pain pills in increasing strengths, is making it more and more difficult to even try to manage the pain.

    • Jon

      September 2, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      I believe that the writer has failed to mention hydrocodone which is the generic of Vicodin is listed as ‘Oxycodone’.. You have it as “the original brand name for a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen”.. 10s of thousands of folks will read this and get confused. Not to mention anything about pain killers that are addictive is a bad read of yesterdays news though the old is new.

    • sherry g

      September 3, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Maybe try having a high cbd strain for your pain. There are wonderful non-psychoactive strains that would serve you perfectly. Harlequin, Cannatonic, Blue Jay way. You’re perfect prescription awaits.
      I look forward to the day where there are medical cannabis universities and doctors know the plant so well they can truly prescribe the right strain and dose for your condition. That would be spectacular. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

    • Russ Hines

      September 4, 2014 at 4:36 am

      Jean Larson, Smoking pot will get you high, no doubt!! but hemp oil reduces pain up to 90 per-cent with no buzz feeling, and is safe when driving…

  18. david odak

    September 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Ive been prescribed painkillers for 12 yrs. And I believe with herb being legit for pain would help myself and many others here in fl. Where it all began we were the pillmill capital forever and I believe them tightening the screws has helped a bit but at the same time people like myself find it nearly impossible to fill and if u do happen to find a mom and pop pharm. Your going to pay upwards of 9/10.00 per pill so we are at the misery of these thieving drug dealers the pharmacies. They can’t just charge what there suppossed to they got to get rich in the process. So I and my entire family mom,stepdad,,kids and many people I know and don’t know believe that medical marijuana should be legal for those of us that need some reprieve from the agony of constant pain. I’m a criminal if I want to help ease my pain by smoking a bit of herb. Maybe they will come around soon we can hope, keep up the battle.

  19. NorCalNative

    August 31, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Cannabis absolutely DOES NOT BELONG in Schedule I.

    However, for lover’s of whole-plant cannabis and those who are already benefitting from MMJ in their states, rescheduling would be a NIGHTMARE!

    I now have access and control over which varieties and forms of cannabis I use as well as final say in what is and is not an appropriate dose at ANY time.

    The main reason why people would appreciate moving cannabis out of Schedule I is medical research. At its root this is a great idea, but one which will have serious and unwelcome consequences for patients.

    Moving cannabis from Schedule I to any other of the four possibilities, i.e., Schedules II-through-IV would be ALL about Big Pharma and not much about patients and their needs to whole-plant medications at lower prices than what Big Pharma will charge.

    Also, please note that physician hostility towards cannabis is primarily based on training and education of ALLOPATHIC medicine. It’s against their medical-school training to enlist herbs and their synergistic properties. Western Medicine/FDA is ALL ABOUT single-molecule preparations NOT whole-plants where each compound needs to pass FDA muster.

    What would suit patients and adult consumers best is a carefully crafted LEGALIZATION SCHEME that envelopes the BEST practices of current MMJ states.

    However, anything short of Over-the-Counter designation would continue the law enforcement and treatment industry’s lock on prohibition for under-21’s. Rescheduling is a fantasy of folks unaware of what it would actually entail.

    Prohibitionist’s like Kevin Sabet and SAM would love nothing more than to see cannabis taken from Schedule I and moved to Schedule II where it would become synthetic rather than herbal and would benefit Big Pharma and their investments into lab-produced cannabinoids.

    Big Pharma is NOT our buddy and they NEED rescheduling in order to make their money on cannabinoid-based medicines. I’m not interested in high-priced synthetics when I can obtain a cheaper whole-plant extract and other forms of cannabis.

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