Study Shows Link Between Dentist-Prescribed Opioids and Opioid Abuse

A new study released last week found that opioids prescribed by dentists have led to a significant increase in the number of young people who have misused opioids.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, found that nearly 6 percent of a sample size of almost 15,000 people ages 16 to 25, who received initial opioid prescriptions in 2015, had been diagnosed with opioid abuse within a year. Just 0.4 percent of people from a similar group who had not received opioids were diagnosed with opioid abuse during the same timeframe.

These numbers are troubling and confirm the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s concern about the overprescribing of opioids. Millions of wisdom tooth extractions are performed every year, meaning that a large number of teens and young adults could be exposed to opioids for the first time.

Compounding the tragedy behind these figures is that such cases are almost entirely preventable. A study has found that non-opioid pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be more effective in treating dental pain.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has worked to inform dentists on safer prescribing practices through the Do No Harm Symposium Series, which has been held throughout the state with the Drug Enforcement Administration ­– New Jersey Division and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program and the New Jersey Dental Association since 2013.

While progress has been made in limiting prescription opioids, this study shows why steps to reduce initiation of opioid use are so necessary. The Partnership is determined to continue working with doctors and dentists to help keep them informed on prescribing guidelines and protect the health and safety of New Jersey’s residents.

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