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A bill introduced by a New York state senator would tighten controls on the opioid hydrocodone. The drug, a key ingredient in Vicodin and other painkillers, has been in the spotlight in the state since a Long Island man was accused of killing four people at a pharmacy in June in order to steal thousands of hydrocodone pills.

The Associated Press reports the bill would move hydrocodone from Schedule III of New York’s Controlled Substance Act to Schedule II, which is more restrictive. Punishments for possessing the drug without a prescription would increase, and patients would have to visit their doctor each time they needed a refill. Under current state law, doctors currently can prescribe up to five refills of hydrocodone.

Since 2009, hydrocodone has been the second most-abused drug, after oxycodone, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Under federal law, oxycodone drugs are classified as Schedule II, while hydrocodone drugs are considered Schedule III.

Currently, there is no minimum punishment for possessing hydrocodone without a prescription in New York, the article notes. A person who possesses two ounces or more can receive a maximum of 5 1/2 years in prison. Under the proposed legislation, a person could receive up to nine years in prison for possession of between a half-ounce and 4 ounces, three to 10 years for 4 to 8 ounces, and eight to 20 years for anything more than 8 ounces.


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