Wisdom tooth extractions are exposing more and more young adults and adolescents, aged 16-25, to opioids, which ultimately raises their risk of an addiction, leading to suffering that goes beyond dental procedures, claimed a recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine in December 2018.
The study results came in the wake of the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that stated that American life expectancy had reduced for the third consecutive year to reach 78.6 years. Of the 63,632 overdose deaths in 2016, 66 percent involved opioids, including oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl.
Risk of continued opioids use increased by 7%
The researchers studied data from 750,000 people and found that nearly 13 percent of them received one or more prescriptions for opioids. Further, when patients received prescriptions for strong painkillers, in 30.6 percent cases, dentists were writing these prescriptions. On an average, a patient received around 20 pills which could lure people into either misusing them themselves or diverting them to facilitate their misuse by others.
The study also compared 14,888 patients who had received an opioid prescription because of dental procedure to a group that did not get the prescriptions. The group that did not get the prescriptions was double the size of the control group.
It was found that almost 7 percent of the patients got a follow-up prescription in 90 days to a year after the procedure. Though these people had no record of opioid use in the 12 months preceding the first prescription, 5.8 percent of these were diagnosed with an opioid abuse-related issue afterwards. During the same period, only 1 percent of the control group got an opioid prescription, of which 0.4 percent developed an opioid abuse-related condition.
Medical practitioners working to reduce opioid prescriptions
Dentists have reduced their rate of prescribing opioids over the years – they wrote 18.5 million prescriptions in 2012, which reduced to 18.1 million by 2017. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a steady decline in opioid prescription since 2012. Further, realizing the harmful effects of opioids, even medical practitioners have halved their rate of opioid prescription to adolescents and young adults. Regardless, as the potency of the opioids used today is three times higher than what is was in 1999, a lot still needs to be done. Taking a stand on this, lead author Dr. Alan Schroeder felt that so many wisdom tooth extractions and the subsequent writing of opioids can be easily avoided.
The researchers reported that the study used diagnostic codes and thus there is scope for miscalculations. Further, it is always difficult to demarcate correlation from causation. The American Dental Association (ADA) said that more research was needed to establish a link between opioids and wisdom tooth extractions, especially during postoperative care.
Combatting opioid addiction
Though the initiatives taken by dentists to reduce opioid prescription are admirable, further policy changes and strict implementation are needed to make America drug free. With more similar initiatives and awareness programs being introduced in the near future, there are high chances of being able to control the existing opioid epidemic in the United States.
If you or your loved one is looking for help to seek recovery from an addiction to drugs or any other substance, get in touch with the 24/7 Recovery Helpline. Call our experts on our 24-hour drug addiction helpline 855-441-4405 to know about the best options for drug rehab help. You can also chat online with our treatment advisors available seven days a week on our drug addiction help online for information about evidence-based treatment programs available at a treatment center near you.