Dentists in Pennsylvania are the most recent entrants in the war on prescription painkillers. They have been called upon to exercise caution while giving prescriptions of highly addictive opioids to their patents. The National Institute on Drug Abuse gives the definition of opioids as medications such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin. They are strong painkillers commonly used in relieving high pain levels and in dental procedures.
In light of lowering the rates of heroin and opiate addiction in Pennsylvania, there are new guidelines that were released on June 15th by the Departments of Drug & Alcohol Programs and Health. These guidelines are the state’s third release and are specifically for dentists. The first and second sets were drafted for doctors and emergency departments respectively. According to the press secretary for drug and alcohol programs, Carey Miller, pharmacists are yet to be issued with their guidelines. Ms. Miller appears to be a campaigner against opioid abuse and expressed her thoughts on the issue by saying that the problem is a national issue. She hopes that by offering alternative solutions other than prescription of opioids to patients, opioid abuse will be a thing of the past.
Just like the rest of the country, Pennsylvania has witnessed an increase in opioid prescriptions in the last one and a half decades. The increase in opioid and heroin addiction, according to the secretary for drug & alcohol programs, Gary Tennis, is directly related with opioid abuse. With at least one in every four families in Pennsylvania struggling with addiction, overdose is the number one cause of death in the state.
Since hydrocodone is the top painkiller prescription in the country, it is often used in dental procedures in combating oral-facial and head pains. However, the painkiller is highly addictive and once its users run out of the painkiller, they result to using a cheaper and a more available option, heroin. Ideally, the first step in countering drug addiction and controlling excess supply of drugs is ensuring that there is no over-prescription of the painkillers.
Pursuant to the fight against opioid abuse, new guidelines released on the website of the Pennsylvania Dental Association require dentists to consider the psychiatric status and previous substance use by patients before writing opioid prescriptions for them. In addition to this, dentists are advised to avoid excessive prescription of opioid medications. What’s more to this is that there are recommendations on administration of NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as a first resort of dulling pain in dental situations. The use of other anesthetic techniques is also advised. So far, the guidelines have been received well by players in the medical field, emergency services and the dental association. The guidelines seek to encourage the use of alternative treatments in situations where the treatments are possible and effective. Ms. Miller’s department has put in place measures including the setting up of a hotline number (717-783-8200), a drug take back program and a care provider search for addicted users to seek medical attention. She believes that the guidelines though may only be a small step in the war on opioid abuse that will help in eliminating this national issue from Pennsylvania.