After Oxycontin Scare, Appalachian Addicts Turn To Hydrocodone

Charleston, WV (AP) -- The drug Oxycontin has been blamed for a wave of crime and drug addiction in Appalachia, but a less famous painkiller may actually be more harmful.

Police and doctors throughout West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and other states say hydrocodone, commonly sold as Vicodin and Lortab, is more widespread and more frequently abused.

Federal figures show that four of the five states where the drug is most frequently sold per capita are in Appalachia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama. And DEA officials in Charleston say it's the most abused prescription drug in the region.

Partly, that's because it has less restrictions than oxycodone, the generic name for Oxycontin, which is more powerful. Hydrocodone is often sold over the internet, making it easier to obtain.

In 2005, more than 124 million prescriptions for hydrocodone were written, making it the most common painkiller of its type on the market.

(Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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