With fatal overdoses from prescription pills quadrupling since 1999, the Centers for Disease Control has issued new guidelines for doctors for prescribing opioid pain killers.
CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. – Suffering from intense pain in her lower back, legs and toes caused by small fiber neuropathy, Donna Lasher spent more than two years seeking a doctor and treatment that worked.
"I was completely bedridden for about seven to nine months," Lasher said Wednesday. "I have been on so many narcotics, enough to kill a horse, and all they do is just make me sick."
Mike Thomas' pain began nearly 20 years ago after an accident at work that ultimately required him to need a new hip and four neck fusions. While often prescribed them by various doctors, he tried to avoid taking prescription pain killers.
"I don't want to become addicted to them; I don't want to have to depend on them," Thomas said.
Both Lasher and Thomas are in the care of Dr. Martin Ferrillo, and have undergone this procedure where nerves are cauterized, or burned, to numb pain.
"It's been very helpful,” said Thomas, who lives in South Glens Falls. “It makes life a lot easier living pain-free."
"[Dr. Ferrillo] gave me my whole life back," Lasher said.
Whenever possible, Ferrillo aims to help patients through methods that don't rely on prescription pain killers.
"It's almost impossible to get them off of these kinds of medications,” said Ferrillo, a specialist who, along with his partner, runs the Albany-Saratoga Center for Pain Management. That's why I really like to try to never get there."
In response to nationwide opiate and heroin epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control released new guidelines for doctors on Tuesday. They're now urging physicians to only prescribe opioid pain killers when absolutely necessary and stick to the lowest possible dose.
"It's not uncommon for myself, as a pain specialist, to see patients who have used and misused opiates, and often many of our patients come to us on opiates," Ferrillo said.
According to the CDC, more than 40 Americans die each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. Ferrillo and his patients are hopeful the new guidelines will help reverse that alarming tend.
"I think if you are trying to just use opiates to treat chronic pain, then you are failing your patient," Ferrillo said.
"There's no question there has to be control on the opiates," Thomas said.
"They will ruin people's lives if they continue using narcotics or these other kinds of medications," Lasher said.
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