All forms of addiction start somewhere, but an innovative program recently begun at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center is attempting to cut off one source of the problem close to where it starts by prescribing fewer addictive medications to patients. Too often, say some experts, a medication, perhaps even a proven painkiller, is prescribed with good intentions but ends up becoming another monster altogether — one known as heroin or prescription-drug addiction.

During a meeting Monday, federal lawmakers came to Paterson to praise ALTO, the pioneering program at St. Joseph's, and to use its protocols as an example of how to encourage other common-sense public health solutions to fight the scourge of addiction. Each day 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the United States.

"Too many New Jerseyans have fallen to addiction, too many lives have been lost, too many families shattered," U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said Monday. He told attendees that since 1999 there has been a fourfold increase in the number of opiate prescriptions written, to 260 million. In other words, that is enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pain pills.

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