The American College of Physicians (ACP) released a set of recommendations Friday which said deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers are at "epidemic" levels.

It also said communities should emphasize treating opiod addiction as a health problem, rather than mainly as a crime. 

"Substance use disorders are treatable chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension," said Nitin Damle, president of the ACP. 

But opioid addicts are far less likely to receive treatment than people who have other chronic conditions.

The ACP says health insurance should be required to cover mental health issues.
Prevention and treatment must be increased, as does the training and education of medical workers about addiction.

Doctors are urged to learn and follow clinical guidelines for prescribing prescription painkillers. It is also recommended that doctors use any state or local databases that can alert them of patients who are using excessive amounts of painkillers.

The group recommends establishing a National Drug Monitoring Program as well.
Access to drugs like naloxone, which can stop overdose deaths, should be increased.

"Substance use disorders pose a heavy societal burden, endangering individual and family health and well-being, tearing through communities and sapping resources from the health care system," the ACP noted.

Opioid addiction has been blamed for an increase in theft and homelessness in parts of the Puget Sound region.

Seattle King County Public Health reported that, on average, someone in the area dies from a heroin or prescription opioid overdose every 36 hours.  

Seattle King County Heroin and Opiate Addiction Task Force issued its own recommendations last fall.