Often the drug Norco, a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, is prescribed for pain. Perhaps you or someone you know has been prescribed Norco following surgery or to treat a chronic condition. You may also know that Norco and similar pain relievers containing hydrocodone can be abused and can cause the user to become dependent on the drug. Hydrocodone is highly addictive and the abuse of Norco and other drugs containing hydrocodone has become a serious drug problem in the United States. In August of 2014, hydrocodone was up-scheduled from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug. A Schedule II drug such as Norco may still be prescribed by a doctor but with the warning that these drugs have a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
Unfortunately, many people in the United States have become addicted to Norco after having been legitimately prescribed this pain-killer. Others have become addicted after buying it on the street and using it recreationally. And because doctors are often reluctant to prescribe prescription pain-killers, some people resort to the black market to self-treat their chronic pain. It is dangerous enough to take this drug without a doctor’s oversight but the danger has been amplified by the illegal sales of a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic, fentanyl, which is being illegally sold on the black market as Norco. The street fentanyl, which is also a pain-killer, is similar in appearance to Norco but is far more potent than Norco. In fact, fentanyl is so powerful that it said to be 50 times more powerful than heroin. While fentanyl is legally prescribed in this country for severe pain, the DEA suspects the black market fentanyl is manufactured in China and smuggled through Mexico by the Mexican drug trafficking cartels.
The fake Norco caused six deaths and 22 overdoses in Sacramento County in just one week this past March. Since then and as of this writing there have been three more deaths in that county and 20 additional hospitalizations related to the counterfeit Norco pills. While the news broke in Sacramento County, the DEA is now issued a public safety alert regarding the fake Norco.
Some have expressed concern that with the tighter regulations put on Norco prescriptions after it was raised from a Schedule III to Schedule II drug, more people have resorted to street Norco to relieve their pain or because they have become addicted. Take the case of 53-year-old David Alfaro in Sacramento County. He suffered from chronic pain after a leg injury. Seeking to relieve the pain, he bought what he thought was Norco on the street. According to his wife, he wasn’t a drug addict. The Norco he bought turned out to be fentanyl and after taking it, he overdosed and died. The danger is someone believing they are taking the less potent Norco, are unwittingly taking a drug far more potent; fentanyl can be lethal even in very small doses.
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