REDDING, Calif. - As the first line of medical defense, healthcare professionals are severely and directly impacted by the national opioid crisis.
Dr. Debbie Lupeika with Shasta Community Health Center said she's seen the epidemic rise during her two decades in Shasta County.
While the clinic is combating the opioid addiction, they often face backlash from those they're trying to help.
Dr. Lupeika said when pain became known as the fifth vital sign in diagnosing patients, the door was opened to the epidemic.
"At the same time, the drug companies really pushed opiates and morphine, things like that, and so that's actually about when it started," Lupeika said.
She said now, prescribers are pulling back, realizing how dangerous and addictive opiates can be.
"A lot of patients have come to us on actually very high doses of opiates, pain medicines, so we have a protocol here to make sure that they're prescribed safely," Lupeika said.
Those guidelines include doing urine drug screens and physicians check to see if patients have been prescribed opiates somewhere else. There is also a medical management agreement to prevent abuse.
"In terms of resources, I would say yes, they are pretty high utilizers," Lupeika said.
Lupeika said she has dealt with frustrated patients who ask to be prescribed opiates.
"There's definitely been some angry patients, especially when we ask them to give the drug screen. Patients don't like to go down on their opiates, and so we're always here to offer alternatives," Lupeika said.
As healthcare providers seek alternatives to medication, their facility offers free yoga classes and nutrition classes for pain management.
Lupeika said they are promoting those alternative methods and limiting dosages to CDC guidelines to prevent opioid abuse.