NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - Opioid painkillers -- like OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin -- have become the most widely prescribed drugs in the country and they have contributed greatly to the heroin epidemic. Many heroin addicts turn to heroin after getting hooked on opioids.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the first national standards that doctors should follow in prescribing the highly addictive painkillers.
Dr. Allyson Shrikhande specializes in pain management and rehabilitation at Lenox Hill Hospital. She supports the CDC's recommendations, which include prescribing pain relievers like ibuprofen before prescribing opiates for pain. And when doctors do prescribe opiates, give patients a low dosage enough to last a few days -- not weeks and months. Plus the doctor says opioids aren't even an effective treatment for chronic pain.
Many doctors across the country have been prescribing the addictive opioids for routine ailments, like back and knee pain. Dr. Shrikhande says they should be reserved for more serious illnesses.
The new CDC guidelines are a recommendation. They're not mandatory. But Dr. Shrikhande says most doctors value the CDC and will follow the recommendation.