CLEVELAND, Ohio-- It's no secret opioid abuse can lead to heroin addiction. Now a local doctor is speaking up to save lives about the surprising place addiction often starts.
"The addiction can clearly start at the doctor's office; in fact, in my experience it's been the majority of the time," said Dr. Christine Alexander-Rager, a family medicine doctor at MetroHealth Medical Center.
Last week, Ohio Governor John Kasich announced restrictions on prescribing prescription drugs. They would limit doctors from prescribing more than a seven-day supply of painkillers for adults with acute pain. It's a move Dr. Alexander applauds but admits will not solve the crisis her profession faces: the over prescription of painkillers.
"Is there something else we can use instead?" said Dr. Alexander. "We're really doing that hard work of trying to crack down, where before we were saying, 'okay, let's try to treat people's pain more aggressively.' It led to us using these medications more and now we're in an epidemic and need to crack, crank it down."
Alternatives to prescription painkillers on a case-by-case basis could be meditation, yoga, massage therapy or anti-inflammatory medicine. Dr. Alexander realizes it's not the solution all patients want to hear but says not every patient needs potentially addictive medications to manage pain.
According to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office, in February at least 61 people died of heroin or fentanyl overdoses. It's the single highest month fatality rate since September of last year.