ORANGE COUNTY (CBSLA.com) — A new opioid painkiller with five to ten times the power of Vicodin has ER doctors worried about a disastrous spike in overdoses and deaths.
Zohydro is a potent extended release prescription painkiller that is made of pure hydrocodone.
"This is a drug dealer's dream," Dr. Jim Keany, of St. Joseph's Hospital, told CBS2's Stacey Butler.
"This is now putting a new drug on the market where one pill will kill a child. I am really concerned about the safety of the pediatric population," he said.
Unlike other painkillers, Zohydro does not contain acetaminophen or Tylenol. It has no protective ingredients that prevent it from being crushed, snorted and injected.
"Other drugs are mixed with Tylenol and nobody wants to inject all that Tylenol because they know it will wipe out their liver. So the fact that this has no Tylenol, it's the perfect drug of abuse for drug users," Keany said.
San Clemente dad James Kennedy lost his 28-year-old son, Joseph, to an overdose of prescription painkillers four years ago.
"They gave him all 75 methadone and all 30 Xanax. And within 48 hours my son was dead," Kennedy said, adding that his son got the painkillers from an Orange County doctor for $150 cash.
"There's no need for this drug," he said.
The FDA approved the powerful painkiller against its own initial recommendations. It's due out on the market this month.
On their website, the makers of Zohydro say it benefits patients with severe and chronic pain and was made with acetaminophen so that it would not cause liver damage. However, they do include a warning.
"Zohydro can cause opioid abuse even if you take your dose correctly as prescribed," the site reads.
Natalie Costa produced a documentary film about the prescription drug abuse problem in Orange County, Behind the Orange Curtain.
"We are sitting on an explosion that's about to happen," she warned.
"It's heroin in pill form. It is far more dangerous than anything we have on the market right now."
Costa heads the local chapter of Fed Up!, a group of parents fighting opioid abuse.
"Once this gets into the wrong hands, we are going to see substantially more deaths than one every 19 minutes like we have now in this country," she said.
The makers of Zohydro had not responded to calls from CBS2 News at press time.
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