CNN reports that the United States is in the throes of an opioid epidemic. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 11.5 million Americans age 12 and older misused prescription pain medicine in 2016. The International Narcotics Control Board reported that in 2015, Americans represented about 99.7% of the world’s hydrocodone consumption.
While this is a huge concern for doctors and medical offices across the country, it should be noted that 2% of opioid prescriptions come from dentists, according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in January of this year, using 15 years’ worth of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data.
Given how deadly this crisis is becoming, the ADA put out a policy statement in March 2018 to address this epidemic in the U.S. The policy has three key components.
First: The ADA supports mandatory continuing education in prescribing opioids and other controlled substances. The goal is to help dentists and hygienists understand the science of pain management and the behavioral issues involved with patients using or abusing opioids.
Second: The ADA supports statutory limits on opioid dosage and duration of no more than seven days for the treatment of acute pain. This follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evidence-based guidelines.
Third: The ADA supports dentists registering with and using prescription drug monitoring programs to promote the appropriate use of opioids and deter misuse and abuse. Existing databases can help dental offices identify patients who may have had past issues with opioids or who might be “shopping” for a practitioner who will prescribe these pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Joseph Crowley, DDS, president of the ADA, noted, “Working together with physicians, pharmacies, other healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public, we believe it is possible to end this tragic and preventable public health crisis that has been devastating our families and communities,” he stated in an ADA press release.