Law enforcement officials say tightening restrictions on the drug would help combat prescription pain abuse in West Virginia.
State Police Superintendent Jay Smithers said reclassifying hydrocodone is "a major step toward restoring accountability and oversight between medical providers and patients."
Lt. Chad Napier, the Charleston Police Department's chief of investigative services, said reclassifying the drug likely would cut down on heroin use as well.
"We have a huge heroin problem, but it's because of the pill problem," he said. "We're seeing a lot of young people getting hooked on opiate-based drugs, hydrocodone being one of them, and then moving on to heroin."
Napier said he doubts anyone would go straight to using heroin, so the number of heroin users might decrease without hydrocodone and other opioids to serve as gateway drugs.
"We will not be creating these heroin addicts. I don't believe kids will go straight from marijuana to heroin," he said.
A study by the Center for Investigative Reporting, a national nonprofit journalism organization, recently revealed veterans' hospitals in Beckley and Huntington prescribed powerful painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and methadone at some of the highest rates in the nation from 2001 to 2012.
During that time, nearly 165,000 patients were treated at the Beckley VA, and more than 250,000 prescriptions were issued, according to the report.
Hydrocodone was the most popular painkiller prescribed, with 21,672 prescriptions for 13,805 patients in 2012.
Hydrocodone also was the No. 1 most-prescribed drug in West Virginia among Medicare Part D patients in 2010, according to a study released earlier this year by the nonprofit investigative journalism website ProPublica.
State doctors wrote 402,159 hydrocodone-acetaminophen prescriptions that year, ProPublica found. Prescriptions of the narcotic cost Medicare $5.2 million in West Virginia that year.
The drug also is popular nationwide. ProPublica found it was the third-most-prescribed medicine in the nation among Medicare Part D patients in 2010.
While highly addictive, hydrocodone is dangerous in other ways too. Because it usually contains acetaminophen, improper use can cause severe damage to the liver and kidneys.