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Health agencies and drug counselors are warning of a dramatic and dangerous rise in the abuse of medicines containing the narcotic hydrocodone, including Vicodin, Norco and Lortab.
Around the country, police seizures of hydrocodone-containing pills are second only to those of oxycodone, the related narcotic used in drugs like OxyContin and Percocet, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration review of police laboratories. Total seizures of hydrocodone pills rose from 13,659 in 2001 to 44,815 in 2010.
About 8 percent of the nation's 12th-graders have abused hydrocodone in the last year, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
There are few national figures on deaths because many states lump hydrocodone, oxycodone and other opiates together when tallying fatal overdoses. But one study showed that in Florida alone, hydrocodone caused 910 deaths and was present in the bodies of 1,803 others between 2003 and 2007.
The increase is part of a growing wave of prescription drug abuse nationwide, the DEA says.
Pharmacy robberies have nearly doubled from 380 in 2006 to 686 in 2010, as drug dealers and desperate addicts turn to violence to get their drugs.