CDC issues new guidelines aiming to curb painkiller prescriptions

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"Nobody starts out using heroin," said Kimberly Giney, Administrative Director at Huntsville Recovery.

What medical experts around the country and here in the Tennessee Valley are seeing is prescription painkillers becoming a gateway to heroin use.

"People who are addicted to opiates start with a lower grade pharmaceutical but the tolerance develops quickly, you're needing stronger, more medication to get that same high," said Huntsville Recovery Clinical Coordinator Heather Resendez.

Giney and Resendez work at Huntsville Recovery, the largest methadone clinic in the state. They say in recent years, the rise in heroin addiction is evident in the number of patients they see.

Giney says Alabama has consistently been among the highest prescribers for pain medication in the country, even topping the list in 2012.

"We're seeing an unprecedented number of I.V. heroin users and overdoses due to heroin," said Resendez.

According to the CDC: 40 Americans die every day from a prescription painkiller overdose, which is why the organization is stepping in to try to put an end to the epidemic where it often starts: in the doctor's office. By advising doctors to prescribe the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time.

"I'm hoping that the healthcare community will become more educated about the dangers of prescribing powerful narcotics, powerful opiates and limit the use of opiate prescriptions," said Resendez.

"Hopefully you'll see less of it filtering its way on the streets for other people to get their hands on," said Giney.

While Resendez and Giney are glad to see the new recommendations, they say they hope this is just the beginning of a nation-wide overhaul to end opiate abuse including more treatment funding and options.

To learn more about the new guidelines visit the CDC website.