TAKING ACTION: Physicians try to stop drug addiction with open conversations

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Opioid addiction is creating issues at an alarming rate. According to the latest numbers from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, of the 20.5 million Americans age 12 and older, 2 million of them had a substance use disorder involved prescription pain relievers.

"It's a huge problem, it is a huge problem," Dr. Yari Campbell, physician of internal medicine, said. "You have to balance out patients that really need it verse addiction."

Doctor Yari Campbell began practicing medicine about 14 years ago. He said things have changed in nearly a decade and a half.

"Being in residency and even medical school, they didn't really talk about dealing with this," Dr. Campbell said. "Now, since it's reached a crisis level, the medical community and most health care professionals realize that this is something that we have to address."

Opioid addiction puts fear in families, but physicians as well.

"It is a huge problem, there are a number of doctors who have lost their licenses because of over prescribing," Dr. Campbell said.

So, doctors are working to know their patients needs better than ever.

"It's important once a patient comes in to establish what kind of pain they're having," Dr. Campbell said.

Dr. Campbell said if a patient does have pain, it's recommended to start with non-opioid medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen, or even physical therapy.

"Not to feel dependent just on taking a pill to manage their pain but other options they can use," Dr. Campbell said.

Physicians depend on close relationships with patients using opioids to keep them from dependence on drugs.

"It's important to see them back periodically, at least monthly, if you're getting renewals on medication and get a gauge on how much pain they're having," Dr. Campbell said.

Dr. Campbell acknowledges there are patients that do need opioid to control pain long term. He just emphasized the importance of open communication.