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Local doctor: Indiana 'ahead' on painkiller problem

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The Centers for Disease Control says opioid addiction is now a national epidemic.

They're giving primary care doctors prescription guidelines. Some experts say Indiana is actually ahead of the problem.

"Some will yell, some will argue, some will walk out, it's a matter of you try to explain it to them," says Paul Desmarais, a doctor with South Bend Clinic.

Desmarais says the patients he treats have pain; It's his job to determine if it's bad enough for pills. Saying no to opioids -- prescribed to treat chronic pain lasting more than three months -- is his policy whenever possible.

"We need to educate the patients that it's not just a pill and one is good and two is better. That they're dangerous," Desmarais says.

Desmarais says new CDC guidelines mainly help primary care doctors -- experts his patients see before they seek his help.

"They're kinda the window," he says. "If they start it, you know, we as specialists you know often times get them as they've been treated for awhile."

Among the 12 recommendations: Prescribe non-opiod painkillers whenever possible.Also prescribe the lowest possible dose. It's a policy that aligns with guidelines already in Indiana.

Since September 2014 Indiana has required stricter rules for painkillers. Among them, patients must sign a "pain treatment agreement" which explains addiction risks.

In 2014, 250 Hoosiers died from painkiller overdoses, according to the Indiana Department of Health. Experts say the rules make a difference.

"The new CDC guidelines and as well as our state guidelines are asking for things like a plan to deal with this pain other than opioids, a plan to get off opioids, screening for past addictive behavior," says John Horsley, director of addiction services at Oaklawn. "All of these things will stop substance disorders before they start."

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