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Canadian study finds dentists are a major source of opioid addiction among dental surgery patients
New data from Canada suggests that dentists are playing a pretty big part in the prescription opioid addiction crisis in Canada, and possibly here in the U.S. too.
A recent study of opioid prescriptions in Canada’s province of Ontario has found that dentists prescribe as many as 40 percent of all opioid painkillers prescribed in the province.
And another study, this one into opioid addiction and deaths in Ontario, has found that prescription opioid overdoses are responsible for one in every eight deaths among young adults between 25 and 34. The researchers say they’ve been looking closely into the “dental connection” for some time, and it does exist.
Health officials have concluded that the misuse of opioids from dental prescriptions is so serious, a new opioid prescribing policy for Ontario dentists is needed. The new guidelines will be first of its kind in Canada for dentists, and will call for significant reductions in opioid prescriptions by dentists.
Current dental practices include powerful opioids like OxyContin for dental surgery. But pain experts say over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol or Advil will do the job in most cases without risking dependence, abuse and overdose. And dentists frequently prescribe many more painkiller pills than will be needed “just in case”.
In special cases when opioids are called for, dentists must stop handing out their usual large prescriptions with extra pills “just in case” – far beyond what’s really required – and prescribe far fewer pills – lower doses over a shorter period of time – and only after patients have been screened for opioid suitability.
Dr. David Mock, dean emeritus of the University of Toronto faculty of dentistry, said that only in “a minority of situations is an opioid required for any dental procedure.”
The author of the study on opioid addiction and death said the recreational use of opioids is increasing among high school and university students. And some of that is sustained by young patients taking their leftover pills to school or to parties.
Deaths from opioids have risen rapidly in Canada in recent years – a nearly 350 percent increase between 1991 and 2010, from 12.2 per million to 41.6 per million. These figures are not quite as high as the increases in some states here in the U.S., but it’s clear that opioid abuses and overdoses are soaring all over the continent.
Terence Young, a member of Canada’s Parliament (roughly equivalent to a member of Congress) said teenagers in his district became addicted to painkillers after receiving OxyContin from their dentists after having their wisdom teeth removed. He told a government hearing that the kids are now undergoing methadone treatment. “Is there any way to get a message to dentists that this is an overuse of medication? For getting wisdom teeth out,” Young said, “all you need is Tylenol, and it’s foolish and irresponsible to give young people such powerful painkillers when they’re getting their wisdom teeth out.”
Dr. Craig Landau, the Canadian head of Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, appeared before the Canadian government’s Health Committee last year on a different matter. But Mr. Young asked, “Should dentists be prescribing OxyContin to young people getting their wisdom teeth out?” And Dr. Landau replied with an unqualified, “No.”
If you or any family or friends are heading for dental surgery, you might want to keep an eye open for any opioid prescriptions. These are powerful drugs, and can be highly addictive among younger people.
OxyContin and its active ingredient, oxycodone, have a long and significant history here at Novus Medical Detox Center. We’ve pioneered new OxyContin and oxycodone detox medical protocols that have proven to help patients end their dependencies more comfortably than ever. Don’t hesitate to call Novus any time. We will help you get your questions about opioid withdrawal and detox answered clearly and concisely.
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