The opioid epidemic in the US continues to get worse. In 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths in the US increased by about 16 percent–an acceleration in a decades-long trend. The opioid epidemic has been driven by the excessive prescription of opioid medication starting in the mid 1990s with a marketing campaign to convince doctors that pain was being undertreated and OxyContin was a safe solution. On the basis of questionable research, doctors began prescribing opioids much more freely. Now we know that opioid painkillers are addictive after all, and every year the death toll continues to rise. One thing people find particularly disturbing about the current epidemic is that many people have become addicted by following their doctors’ advice. People from all walks of life who normally would not have used opioids found themselves dependent after an accident or a medical procedure just because they took their medication as directed. In the abundant media coverage of the opioid crisis, there have been many such stories. They are often of athletes who get surgery to repair an injury, or of teens who have had their wisdom teeth extracted. There are roughly 3.5 million wisdom tooth extractions every year in the US and patients are typically prescribed opioid painkillers to treat the pain following the procedure. This is many teens’ first exposure to opioids. Typically, only a few days’ worth of painkillers are necessary, but patients are often prescribed more, sometimes as much as month’s worth. This is especially troubling, because most people get their wisdom teeth out in their teens or early twenties, when they are most vulnerable to addiction. One study found that patients between the ages of 13 and 30 were almost three times as likely to keep refilling their prescriptions for opioid painkillers several weeks after the wisdom tooth extraction. Patients in their late twenties were at the highest risk of persistent use. If you need a wisdom tooth extraction, be sure to discuss pain management with your dentist or oral surgeon. Although opioid medication is routinely prescribed, it may not be necessary and it may not be the best medication for you. If you have a history of addiction to opioids or anything else, it’s crucial to tell your dentist. Anyone with a history of mental illness, including depression or anxiety disorders is also at higher risk for developing addiction to opioids. The good news is that studies have found that ordinary NSAIDs like ibuprofen might actually be more effective for pain following a wisdom tooth extraction. In general, doctors and dentists are becoming more aware of the opioid problem and making efforts to meet CDC guidelines for prescriptions. Still, it’s best to be informed about the risks and make your own decisions.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.