Addicts and doctors grapple with opioid availability

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President Donald Trump last month called opioids a national health emergency, and Georgia is not immune. 

A state report says there were nearly as many deadly drug overdoses as car crashes. The number of opioid overdoses has more than tripled in the state since 2001.

One former addict said part of the problem is that drugs are so easy to get.

"With a prescription, that's all it takes," said Brandon Short. "I got prescriptions all the time, and when I didn't, everybody else got prescriptions, so everybody else was selling them. It wasn't hard to find them."

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Short said he slipped into an opiate addiction after being injured in an ATV crash.

"The doctor would prescribe me painkillers every month, every month, every month, and before, it was medicine for me, you know? After my shoulder stopped hurting, it became a drug," said Short.

Now he works at Next Step recovery Ministries, the program that helped him back to sobriety. 

But a Medical Center Navicent Health doctor says one reason those pills are so readily available is that it's tough for physicians to distinguish between people in legitimate pain and those who just want to get high.

"This is a really tricky question because people experience pain differently," said Dr. John Wood. "My threshold, your threshold, the gentleman you spoke to's threshold are going to be different."

Dr. Wood adds that limiting opioid prescriptions can have its own unintended consequences.

"What I think they're seeing in some states where they've really cracked down on opioid prescription, though, is they've seen an increase in the use of heroin."

Dr. Wood says it's crucial for primary care doctors to pay close attention to their patients' drug use and for the state to make resources available for those battling addiction.