Program to fight against opioid addiction

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HARRISBURG, Pa.--

Opioid addiction is an epidemic in Pennsylvania. The Department of Health said thousands die a year because of opioids.

"In 2014 nearly 25 hundred Pennsylvanians lost their lives to opioid over prescribing and the heroin epidemic," Dr. Lauren Hughes of the Department of Health said.

She said other states have this problem as well. Andrew Sullivan of Mazzitti and Sullivan counseling Services says it starts small, then becomes a problem.

"In my 42 years in this business, I've never met anybody who said I'm really happy to be an addict," he said. Stopping the drug creates a powerful want or need a craving in the patient and before you know it you're addicted and you're seeking out those drugs."

The PA Department of Health said the prescription drug monitoring program will now look for possible opioid abusers. It used to be used for law enforcement. Now a company will provide a tool to doctors so they can provide data to let other doctors know when someone gets opioids.

"Doctor shopping as it's commonly known is one of the red flags that those in the clinical community identify as a potential of those who are suffering from the disease of addiction," Dr. Hughes said.

This new data will allow doctors to tell patients they can't provide them opioids. It will also allow them to advise them for help.

"Every opportunity we have as a state, as a community, as physicians is an opportunity to save someone's life," Sullivan said.

Dr. Hughes said the program should be in place by the end of the year.