Tag Archives: prescription painkillers

Dentist Group Announces Policy to Cut Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions

The American Dental Association its members to reduce the number of opioid painkillers they are prescribing. The Association announced a new policy stating that members should “essentially eliminate” opioids from the list of remedies they have at their disposal, “if at all possible.”

Weekly Limits for Narcotics

The Association also wants to have a time limit put in place on prescriptions of no more than one week at a time. Under the new policy, dentists would be required to complete a mandatory education program that encourages use of other pain relievers.

Dentists Prescribe Most Opioids to US Teens

Dental practitioners are the leading source of opioid prescriptions for US teens, even though they write less than seven percent of opioid prescriptions in the US. During the period from 2010-2015, the most notable increase in dental prescriptions was for patients aged 11-18. The rate jumped from close to 100 per 1,000 patients to 165 per 1,000 patients. Among all age groups, the rate increased from 131 per 1,000 patients to 147 per 1,000 patients.

Other Options Shown to be Just as Effective

The number of opioid prescriptions written by dentists continues to rise even though evidence has shown that ibuprofen and acetaminophen control most dental pain effectively, according to an analysis conducted on five studies. The results were published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. These over-the-counter medications are less risky than opioids, which are addictive.

When dentists prescribe opioids, they tend to prescribe Vicodin or Percocet to relieve the short-term pain from procedures such as wisdom teeth extractions, dental implants and root canal work.

Dr. Paul Moore, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dentistry and the co-author of the analysis, said that the fact dentists are still prescribing opioids when other options are just as effective most of the time is “a little disturbing.”

The Association’s new policy supports requiring dentists to complete continuing education courses on limiting opioid use to retain their license. A number of states have already adopted this policy.

opioid epidemic

Addiction Expert Explains Three Main Groups of Opioid Epidemic

For the average person reading news stories or listening to the situation being discussed on the air, it seems as though the situation is mainly about young people who have moved from a prescription opioid dependency to a heroin addiction and that fentanyl is causing many of the overdose deaths. Popular news stories imply that efforts to stop people from becoming addicted to prescription drugs have not helped, but only made the issue worse.

This is one part of the opioid crisis but it isn’t the full story. As Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management pointed out, there are three opioid epidemics impacting North America.

The Three Opioid Epidemics in North America

1. Longtime Addicts

This, according to Kolodny, is the smallest group. Most of them are between the ages of 50-70 and started using heroin in the 1970s and 1980s. They lost a number of their friends to addiction. Fentanyl is responsible for killing off people in this group, due to the heroin supply being “laced” with this powerful pain reliever.

2. Young Rural and Suburban Users

The second group is the middle one, and is between 20-40 years of age. This is the group that gets most of the press coverage. They are people who are being found dead of an overdose, often with needles still in stuck in their arm.

In many instances, the road to addiction starts out with prescription opioids. The person may have started taking medications prescribed for someone else. They may have originally been prescribed the pain medication, but started using it more often than as directed. When their supply ran out, they turned to buying pills on the street.

At some point the cravings for pills increased. The cost was high and heroin could satisfy the cravings at a cheaper price. Switching from pills to heroin wasn’t anything new, according to Kolodny. Again, when dealers started adding fentanyl to their heroin supply around 2011 because it was a cheap filler, the number of overdose victims skyrocketed.

3. Middle-Aged and Senior Adults

The largest group, which has remained mostly under the popular press’ radar, is made up of people in their mid-40s through to their 80s. Their deaths due to opioid abuse are under-reported.

People in this age group may have been taking pain medications prescribed by their primary care doctors for several years. When they pass away from heart disease or another cause, no one wants to think of their long-term opioid use as being a contributing factor. Families also don’t think to ask whether their loved one may not have been using their opioid medication appropriately, whether there was an interaction with other medications (over the counter or herbal supplements included). They wouldn’t ask whether alcohol use and opioids may have been an issue.

The fact there are three sub-groups among this epidemic is why the number of overdose deaths have continued to rise. This isn’t a typical substance abuse problem, as the number of lives lost have actually reduced the average life expectancy in America.

To solve this problem Kolodny suggests investing money in building a new treatment system at an estimated cost of $60 billion. Although there are a ton of addiction programs doing great things, the system as a whole isn’t slowing the number of deaths, so more must be done.

opioid prescriptions falling

CDC: Number of Opioid Prescriptions Falling

opioid prescriptionsAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioid prescriptions in the United States fell 18% between its peak in 2010 and 2015. However, it is still three times higher than it was in just 1999.

The reduction in prescriptions is partially due to the revised prescribing practices that have been recommended for physicians, as well as the general awareness campaigns brought on by the overdose epidemic. For more than a decade our nation has lost many thousands of lives each year to drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Opana and many others. Unfortunately, those horrible losses are still occurring today.

While there are still some counties around the nation that have shown increased activity in this regard, there are also additional good news reports, such as the number of prescriptions with high doses dropping by 41% since 2010.

It is still unclear what kind of impact this reduction will have on current and future opioid abusers. While there will still be thousands of people who die each year, hopefully that number continues to go down as well.

“We do know that when you start people on prescription opioids, the risk of unintended consequences and illicit use goes up. But our staff has done intensive analyses to see whether changing policies for prescription drugs shifts people into illicit use, and the answer is no,” explained Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of CDC, in response to the suggestion that limiting the number of pills being prescribed will drive abusers to seek out street drugs like heroin.

The painkiller epidemic is one area where it seems that cutting down the supply will have an effect on the demand, eventually. This is encouraging news for the continued efforts to help save lives from prescription drug addiction of all kinds, not just opioids. These and other forms of interventions are often necessary when it comes to

Study of Veterans Documents Transition from Painkillers to Heroin Abuse

veterans painkillersAddicts who abuse prescription painkillers often turn to heroin as well. This phenomenon has plagued society for the last several years. Some people insist that in order to reduce heroin addiction in the country, the prescription painkiller epidemic must be solved first. Others caution that by making prescription painkillers harder to obtain, that policy makers will drive users to toward heroin. In order to develop the best plan of attack for reducing heroin and prescription painkiller abuse, ongoing studies are being conducted and analyzed on different demographics that abuse these types of drugs.

One recent study shows that veterans are more likely to use heroin if they have misused prescription painkillers in the past. Veteran healthcare, including mental health, has been an ongoing concern of late, as they deserve the best care our nation can provide. Veterans and other people who present with suspicious behavior regarding their prescription painkillers should be more closely monitored by medical professionals for potential heroin abuse in the future. The results of this study appear in the journal Addiction.

“Our findings demonstrate a pattern of transitioning from non-medical use of prescription opioids to heroin use that has only been demonstrated in select populations. Our findings are unique in that our sample of individuals consisted of patients who were receiving routine medical care for common medical conditions,” explained David Fiellin, the co-author of the study.

This specific information and method of study can now also be applied to other groups to better document the link of painkillers and heroin addiction. As more information is gathered about the transition into heroin abuse, the more specialized prevention programs can be.

For people who do become dependent on opiates, including veterans and other populations, should seek out effective addiction treatment programs such as Desert Cove Recovery.