(WBIR) The Drug Enforcement Administration said prescription drugs take the lives of more than 20,000 Americans every year.
The federal government has taken notice to these alarming statistics and is finalizing new restrictions on the most common form of painkiller in the country. There will now be stricter rules when it comes to hydrocodone, which is the most widely prescribed painkiller in the United States.
It will be placed in a tougher, more restrictive category, making it harder for people to get. That includes the people who actually need it to treat their medical condition.
Hydrocodone is found in drugs like Vicodin. The restrictions come in an effort to reduce the number of people who abuse prescription medications.
"It's a pretty big issue, especially here in East Tennessee," said Hank Peck, owner of Long's Drug Store in Knoxville. "I think we probably see more abuse that occurs in the state then there are a lot of places so it is important."
The new rules limit the drug to a 90-day supply. Doctors will no longer be able to call in prescriptions by telephone and patients won't be able to get refills on the same prescription.
"They either have to have a written prescription or they have to send in a prescription electronically," Huddleston said. "Or you have to go back into the doctor's office to get a new prescription."
Pharmacists said the change will require them to keep the drugs under tighter security.
"It will change some things on our end in terms of how we keep the records and that sort of thing," Peck said. "So it does tighten things up a little bit and it does change the fact that you cannot put a refill on that."
Prescription drugs account for the majority of all drug related deaths in the United States and professionals said the regulation is a step in the right direction when it comes to fixing the problem.
"This is a problem and we need to let people know that we have to fix it. It's not something that's going to get fixed overnight and we're in the right steps to doing that," Huddleston said.
As of right now, doctors can prescribe a six-month supply of pain killers with up to five refills under Schedule III.
The new restrictions will take effect in mid-October and will now be limited to a three month supply and no refills under Schedule II.