Opioids act on the brain in a way that increases the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of euphoria. This makes the drugs highly addictive. Zohydro is comprised of pure hydrocodone, an opioid. This is one of its major selling points; unlike other drugs that contain hydrocodone, Zohydro isn’t mixed with acetaminophen, which is associated with liver damage when used for a prolonged period of time or in high doses. The company that makes Zohydro, Zogenix Inc., claims that 63% of acetaminophen-related liver failure cases are associated with drugs containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen.
Zohydro is an extended-release form of hydrocodone designed for patients who require all-day relief from severe pain. Sold in doses as high as 50 milligrams – five- to 10-times the strength of Vicodin – it is meant to slowly release opioids into users’ systems over a 12-hour period. The major concern with the medication is that it can easily be tampered with – by crushing it up and snorting it – to release a massive dose of opioids all at once. This is what happened with OxyContin when it first hit the market, before manufacturers began making it tamper resistant, and a big part of the reason why OxyContin is now considered a primary culprit in the growing rate of opioid addiction and abuse, as well as the transition from prescription medication to heroin use.
It is alarming that the FDA approved the medication for the market despite the fact that its scientifically-driven advisory panel voted it down 12 to two. While it’s not unheard of for the FDA to decide against its advisory panel now and then, the near-consensus of Zohydro nay-sayers on the panel makes the final decision to the contrary an anomaly.
Patients with chronic pain are susceptible to pain-killer addiction and abuse not simply because the medications are addictive. Chronic pain is linked with depression which, in turn, increases the likelihood of drug misuse and addictive behaviors. One study involving 1,334 chronic pain patients found that those with moderate depression were 1.8 times more likely to misuse opioids, while those with severe depression were 2.4 times more likely to misuse. See more on this at www.annfammed.org.
Because of the addictive nature of opioid drugs and the link between pain and depression, chronic pain patients have every reason to be wary of pain-killers. While powerful pain-killers are sometimes necessary for maintaining a normal life, many patients can benefit from safe methods of chronic pain management such as yoga, relaxation techniques, osteopathic care, acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy and other forms of conservative treatment. Know your options before making a decision.