The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has reclassified hydrocodone-based drugs, such as Lortab and Vicodin, into a new, more restrictive category.

The change will make it harder to get them from a pharmacy. LSU Health's Emergency Medicine Chairman, Dr. Tom Arnold, says the federal government is trying to reign in an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

"By restricting prescriptions to a one-month supply, no automatic refills, and there has to be a hard prescription that has to be turned in," Arnold said. "They cannot phone these in as has been the practice in the past."

Under the new rules, doctors will only be able to prescribe a 30-day supply with no automatic refills. People will also not be able to call a prescription in to the pharmacy.

They cannot phone these in as has been the practice in the past

Arnold says the intended purpose of these new rules is simple: "restricting its availability, somewhat, on the streets and being diverted to people who are using it for unintended purposes."

He says the U.S. uses 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone, and the federal government says it's doing what they can to try to get the problem under control.

But Arnold says as these prescription drugs are becoming harder to obtain, there has been an uptick in heroin use across the nation, even in Louisiana.

"A couple of years ago we almost never saw heroin in Louisiana and now we're having multiple cases of heroin and heroin overdoses, even within our borders," Arnold said.