By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – Pennsylvania has issued new guidelines for medical professionals on the use of opioid painkillers in an effort to stem the rising tide of prescription drug addiction.

The painkiller guidelines are the work of a task force created by the governor to examine ways to treat chronic non-cancer pain.

Gary Tennis, the state secretary for Drug and Alcohol Programs, says the main thrust is to encourage health care providers to use other treatments, such as physical therapy, rather than simply prescribing opioid painkillers.

“Modalities that really are effective that are actually safer than opioids that can be used without opioids or in combination with a lower level.”

Tennis says not only are too many people dying of prescription drug abuse, but just as bad.

“We’re in the midst of a heroin epidemic. Four out of five of those individuals now abusing heroin started with prescription drugs.”

Tennis says treatment is highly successful and is covered by insurance and Medicaid.

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