Salem Hospital ER doctors have changed how they treat pain and prescribe painkillers.
Using the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and a new approach to identify and discuss possible addictions with patients, these doctors are reducing the number of painkiller medications prescribed in the state's busiest ER.
Oregon is ranked the highest in the nation for opiate abuse in young adults ages 18 to 25.
Salem Hospital held a press conference on Tuesday to describe the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and other new approaches they are using, like capping the prescribed number of painkillers to 20 and referring patients back to their primary care providers.
"What the public must understand is that pain is not a disease process but rather a symptom. Pain is not a medically accepted cause of death," said emergency room Dr. Rumm Morag.
At the press conference, former college baseball player and recovering drug addict Matt Harp spoke. Harp became addicted to the pain medication oxycodone after shoulder surgery, and talked about how the pills almost ruined his life.
He was taking them as prescribed, but still became an addict who had to lie and cheat to feed a drug habit that was costing him $320 a day.
"I was homeless, living out of my vehicle. The hopelessness became too much and I attempted to commit suicide," Harp explained.
Harp later checked himself into rehab. He is now a husband and a father and is in the process of becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.
Hospital officials say that since September, the ER has reduced distribution of prescription drugs by 70 percent.
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