Doctors at Carilion taking a holistic approach to preventing painkiller addiction

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Painkiller addiction is a deadly problem affecting families across the nation. Doctors at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital are examining alternative methods of pain relief. While it is still in the early phase, doctors hope using a more holistic approach will help prevent more people from becoming drug addicts.

Janine Underwood wishes she knew the negative impact of painkillers before it was too late. She said her son, Bobby, became addicted following his knee surgery.

"I had no idea that his life was going to change," said Underwood. "It spiraled out of control".

Underwood said her son's prescribed medication acted as a gateway to other drugs, including heroin

"I came home late on a Saturday to find him laying on the floor in his room, dead from a drug overdose of heroin laced with Fentanyl," said Underwood.

The grieving mother is now part of a movement to prevent painkillers from destroying lives. Efforts include doctors who are taking unique steps to manage pain by reducing the use of prescription drugs.

"The narcotic becomes a crutch to keep you from becoming active and more functional," said Roanoke Memorial Hospital Surgery Department Chair Dr. Bruce Long. "What we really try to do is taper the narcotic early and as aggressively as we can."

Long said doctors are prescribing fewer medications before and after surgery. They are now focusing on alternatives such as introducing physical therapy and rehab earlier.

"If your brain has to stand up, walk in complicated movements up and down a hallway, it's not focused on pain," he said. "The movement itself reduces the stiffness and the muscle inflammation reaction."

Doctors are also turning to other medications like Motrin as a relief options for patients.

Underwood said she hopes doctors efforts, along with personal stories like her own, raise awareness about the dangers of painkillers and prevent others from becoming addicted.