Every day 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose1, 2. Opioids are also known as narcotics and have the effect of relieving pain to various degrees. Certain narcotics such as herion are illegal. Others such as morphine, hydrocodone, and codeine are legal when prescribed by a physician to relieve pain. They all have addictive properties that can cause people to become hooked on them and abuse the drug.
That has been at the root of a rising opioid addiction in America, what has recently reached endemic proportions. In the 1990’s this class of drug became the most widely prescribed pain reliever by doctors. And with that rise in prescriptions came a corresponding rise in drug abuse – people obtaining it illegally without a doctor’s order, or people with a legal prescription not following directions either in an attempt to relieve pain or just get high.
Many dentists including myself are now making a concerted effort to not prescribe opioids at all. Studies have shown evidence there are safer pain relievers that are more effective at relieving pain. So why wouldn’t everybody discontinue opioid use if something else is safer and better at pain relief? Many times it’s because of the addictive properties opioids have.
This problem now has the attention of the US Surgeon General and doctors nationwide. A program has been initiated to dramatically curb the use of these drugs, or in the case of my own practice, eliminate them altogether. I say good riddance.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: 2016
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention & Control: Opioid Overdose. https://www.cdc.gov/overdose/index.html. Accessed May 3, 2017.