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Pills MedicineIf you thought the painkiller addiction epidemic was bad before, just wait.

Pharmaceutical companies are about to unveil a pure, more potent version of the nation’s second most-abused medicine. Addiction experts are worried (and rightly so) that this could lead to a new wave of medication abuse.

The new painkiller Zohydro, made by Zogenix of San Diego, contains the addictive painkiller hydrocodone. In fact, the new drug packs up to 10 times the amount of the drug as medications like Vicodin.

If it is approved, Zohydro would the first painkiller ever made from pure hydrocodone. Existing products combine the drug with other, nonaddictive painkillers like acetaminophen.

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Critics say they are more than a little concerned about Zohydro, as it’s a timed-release drug meant for managing moderate to severe pain, because abusers could feasibly crush it in order to get a super-high.

“I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin,” said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. “We just don’t need this on the market.”

The pharmaceutical companies argue that these new drugs will give physicians another tool to help patients manage pain. The companies also claim that patients using them will be more closely supervised.

OxyContin, introduced in 1995 by Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut, was designed to manage pain with a formula that slowly released one dose of oxycodone over many hours. Addicts quickly figured out how to get around that restriction, however.

Oxycodone is now the most-abused medicinal drug in the U.S., with hydrocodone second, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration‘s annual count of drug seizures sent to police drug labs for analysis.

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