Fighting against the opioid crisis

After any type of oral surgery, you may be prescribed an opioid like hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine or codeine to help manage pain. But today, misuse of these opioids is a national public health crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of drug overdose deaths has increased by nearly 5% from 2018 to 2019 and has quadrupled since 1999. Over 70% of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved an opioid. 

This means nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses in 2019. 

How did this happen?

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. This caused healthcare providers to begin prescribing them at greater rates.

This led to widespread misuse of these medications and became clear that they were highly addictive and dangerous. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to opioids. 

Misuse of painkillers 

Taking opioids in a way other than prescribed can lead to addiction, overdose or even death. Each day, more than 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose. The dental community is working hand in hand with medical experts, law enforcement and education communities to help combat this problem.

Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Between 8 to 12 percent of people using an opioid for chronic pain develop an opioid use disorder. Also, 4 to 6 percent of those who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin. 

Federal efforts to combat opioid crisis

The Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services are all involved in combating the opioid epidemic. 

The CDC is constantly updating its information through monitoring trends and advancing its research. It is also equipping agencies with the necessary resources on state and local levels. This helps state governments respond to the crisis and prevent it from growing.  

The HHS and NIH are improving the treatment and recovery services to help individuals come back from opioid addiction. This includes promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs and providing support for research and prevention campaigns.

How to do your part

●     Ask your dentist about other treatment options like over-the-counter pain relievers. These can be medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, which could be just as effective for pain control.

●     Confirm the number of days you should take the painkillers. The CDC recommends taking prescription opioids for no more than seven days, and in most cases, no more than three days.

●     Share your medical history and let your dentist know what other medications you are taking. Also inform them if your family has a history of addiction.

●     Understand that the likelihood of developing an opioid disorder depends on many factors. So, when receiving a prescription from a dentist or pharmacist, ask questions. Always make sure to properly dispose of any leftover pills as soon as possible. Your dentist or pharmacist can provide guidance on how to do that.

Best practices for dentists to prevent misuse of opioids

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