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Dentists Role in Addiction Abuse

Prescription drug addicts may have found the dealers of choice at dentist offices across the United States. Dentists write prescriptions for opioids at an alarming rate, becoming the third-most sector to prescribe such drugs. Unfortunately, many of these dentists are unaware that they are being used by patients to assist in the patients’ substance abuse problems.

Addicts who focus on dental care as a source of drug prescriptions prey on these dentists’ trusting nature and lack of training when it comes to identifying addictive behaviors. Additionally, addicts may jump from dentist to dentist and doctor to doctor to score the drugs, making it more difficult for a dentist who sees a new patient to ascertain previous history that may indicate substance abuse or drug addiction.

New preventative measures have been suggested by Tufts Health Care Institute Program on Opioid Risk Management. Recommendations are as follows:

  • Be Wary of New Patients: For those dentists who do not have a history with a patient, it may help to refuse prescriptions to new patients. Also, if a patient claims that that have lost prescription drugs or that drugs were stolen, be wary of their claims.
  • Discuss Prescription Need with Patients: Some patients may prefer less-addictive painkillers, like ibuprofen. The intensity of pain may also indicate that opioids are not necessary. Dentists who discuss the pain intensity and length of prescription can help decrease the numbers of new substance abuse patients.
  • Lock Up: Prescription pads should always be locked up to avoid burglary.
  • Write Smaller Prescriptions: Large quantity prescriptions and limitless refills can help addicts continue on their substance abuse paths, so it is suggested that dentists write smaller prescriptions and limit refills.
  • Use Databases to Track Drug Use: When available, using prescription monitoring databases, like state monitoring programs, can help dentists verify that a patient has not shown a substance abuse problem.

In another study, further preventative measures have been identified, as follows:

  • Discuss Addictive Behaviors: Another way to prevent addiction in patients is to discuss the addictive nature of the drug to patients and request information on background addictions. A patient with a history of addictive behaviors may be better served by a high-dose prescription for a non-addictive pain reliever, like ibuprofen.
  • Trust Your Instincts: 58 percent of dentists surveyed believed that they were victims of prescription fraud or theft, so if your instincts are telling you that a patient may be using you for a prescription, ask more questions about their past addictions.

In addition to these measures, dentists may benefit from additional knowledge of patients’ medication storage habits. Knowing if patients already destroy medication when finished can help them ascertain if the drugs will sit unused in a medicine cabinet, which can sometimes lead to addictive behavior in other family members (those who were not prescribed the drugs).

Substance abuse among people who never received a prescription is a growing trend, particularly among young adults. This new group of addicts may begin to experiment with leftover prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, only to become hooked on the opioids. From there, the substance abuse need grows until the addicts are stealing from others’ medicine cabinets and even buying the prescriptions on the black market. Eventually, addiction to prescriptions can lead to heroin use, since the illegal drug is cheaper on the streets.

Therefore, to combat this new trend of substance abuse, dentists can advise patients to dispose of leftover prescription narcotics immediately upon pain resolution. They may also be able to prescribe fewer pills; 41 percent of dentists tend to prescribe too many pills, and they acknowledge that patients will more-than-likely have leftover narcotics.

However, despite dentists’ and doctors’ new knowledge and focus on substance abuse prevention tactics, many people have become addicted to narcotic painkillers over the years. These addicts may benefit from the assistance of treatment centers, like the Vista Taos treatment center in New Mexico.

Treatment centers such as these can assist those suffering from substance abuse issues. Whether those addicted are new users or have been addicted for years, a treatment center can identify and treat all aspects of drug abuse, including underlying reasons such as emotional distress or true underlying pain. By fighting the ghosts of emotions and pain, addicts can overcome their addictions at a treatment center and go on to live a fulfilling life, free from substance abuse in the years to come. 

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COVID-19 update: The health and safety of our clients at Vista Taos Renewal Center continues to be our highest priority. Due to the national rise in cases of COVID-19, all potential clients entering the Vista Taos program shall be tested for the virus and must receive their results prior to admission. Vista Taos continues to work closely with the New Mexico Department of Health, adhering to the highest standards of care for our clients, and will provide subsequent testing after admission as needed. For assistance in finding the most efficient testing sites, please contact our Director of Community Relations, Jeremy Lihte, at (575) 425-1913
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