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Doctors Hoping 'National Emergency' Declaration Brings More Awareness To Opioid Crisis

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- President Donald Trump, on Thursday, said he was ready to call the nation's current opioid crisis "a national emergency," and pledged to step up government efforts to combat the epidemic.

Dr. Neil Capretto, at the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Beaver County, reacted to the president's announcement, saying "Declaring it as a national emergency will hopefully bring more attention to the problem, and make more people aware of it, and also bring more funding to treatment and prevention."

When it comes to addiction and the most effective ways to treat drug and alcohol problems, Dr. Capretto is an expert. He's been at Gateway Rehabilitation Center for nearly three decades, and serves as the treatment center's longtime medical director.

He told KDKA-TV's Ralph Iannotti, "The problem is even higher in western Pennsylvania than in most areas of the country. We have been hit harder, so getting the national attention on it by the president, I hope, will help western Pennsylvania [get some] resources."

"We have over-prescribing of opioids from physicians who still need an education on who should and shouldn't be prescribed. Then, we have a large amount of the community out there who have already developed opioid disorders that are underserved, and undertreated," Dr. Jack Kabazie, the director of pain medicine at the Allegheny Health Network, said.

Dr. Kabazie, said he doesn't know if the country is really prepared for what may be ahead.

"We haven't yet seen [the drug epidemic] peak," he said. "I think it's going to get worse before it gets better."

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Back at Gateway Rehab, Dr. Capretto says there's no way law enforcement alone can be expected to solve the opioid crisis.

"We cannot 'arrest' our way out of the problem. This really should be treated as a public health issue," Dr. Capretto said. "High-level traffickers and high-level cartel drug dealers go after them with the full force of the law, but individual users, they need help, they need treatment, they need support, and if they don't get it, they'll continue to use and continue to die."

Across the country, more than 100 Americans die every day from overdoses. That's well over 50,000 deaths a year.

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