Accidental Addict: Can a Trip to the Dentist Lead to Opioid Addiction?

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Accidental Addict: Can a Trip to the Dentist Lead to Opioid Addiction?

When it comes to understanding opioid addiction, we should first look at the many ways a person is initially introduced to the drug. Opioids treat pain for millions of people each year.  In fact, the CDC reports that more than 214 million prescriptions for opioids were written in one year alone. As a result, more than 11 million of those individuals were treated in ERs for opioid misuse or abuse. The report also reveals that more than 40% of all US overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.

Preventing opioid addiction can begin by finding alternatives for treating pain that don’t involve addictive substances.  For instance, many physicians and dentists are now asking patients to try over-the-counter pain relievers first before asking for an opioid prescription.  Family physicians write more than 15% of all opioid prescriptions, while dentists write 12%. Few people think that going to the dentist can lead them to opioid addiction, but many thousands of dental patients have developed a dependency or addiction to their medication.

How the Opioid Epidemic Became so Widespread in the US

The most significant cause of opioid addiction began with humans being humans.  We want an instant fix for everything, especially when it comes to pain. Also, since the beginning of time, humans have relentlessly sought new ways to enjoy a euphoric state of mind.  In other words, we love to get high. Consequently, since 1999, over 70,000 people have died from opioid overdoses.

The American Dental Association surveyed 563 surgeons and found that 85% of them almost always prescribed an opioid for post-operative pain.  About 64% of the physicians prescribed Hydrocodone with acetaminophen.   As many as 73% of the dentists surveyed prescribed the same medication to their patients.  When we look at these numbers, understanding opioid addiction becomes easier.

Of course, dentists and physicians are not entirely responsible for the opioid crisis.  They don’t intend for their patients to become addicted to the medications. Overall, the most significant contributor to opioid addictions is the ease of availability on the streets and in homes all across the country.

The Risks Outweigh the Benefits Especially for Teens and Young Adults

Although dentistry is a small contributor to the opioid epidemic, they play a significant role in prescribing opioids to teens and young adults.  The reason being that this age group is more likely to have surgery to remove wisdom teeth. In most cases, the patients walk out with a prescription for opioids in their hand.

Also, many teens and young adults are prone to participate in “skittles parties.”  These parties require everyone to bring whatever pills they can find.   Everyone takes one or more of the pills and they don’t know what they are ingesting.  What makes it worse, they combine these pills with alcohol or marijuana.

Opioids are dangerous for teens and young adults because their brains are still developing. Taking opioids during these years increases the risk of drug use and addiction later in life. Also, prolonged use of opioids can adversely affect cognitive ability, decision-making skills, and self-control. According to the Monitoring the Future study, most teens who misuse opioids first took the drugs as prescribed by their doctor for pain.

More Information for Understanding Opioid Addiction

If you know someone who is struggling with chronic pain, encourage them to seek alternatives to pain management that don’t involve opioids.  More information about the dangers of opioids and alternative treatments can be found at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website.

Also, if you know someone who needs treatment for opioid addiction, please contact us at A Forever Recovery today.

Resources:

apta.org/PTinMotionAPTA Launches #ChoosePT Campaign to Battle Opioid Epidemic

moveforwardpt.com7 Staggering Statistics About America’s Opioid Epidemic

cdc.govCDC’s Response to the Opioid Overdose Epidemic

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