opioid_prescriptionThe American Dental Association (ADA) has announced it is entering a strategic partnership with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to help prevent opioid drug-related overdoses and deaths. According to the ADA, the partnership will complement the work of the American Medical Association Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, which the ADA joined in August.

The strategic partnership will bring executive branch resources to the task force, whose first priority is to increase the number of healthcare providers registered with their state-based prescription drug monitoring programs.

When taken as prescribed for short periods of time under the care of a medical professional, opioids are safe to use. Unfortunately, as the ADA points out, opioid pain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, have become a leading source of drug abuse among teens and young adults. As the fifth largest healthcare specialty group prescribing these painkilling medications, the ADA contends that dentists have a role to play in preventing their diversion, misuse, and abuse.

As part of its responsibility in combating the dangers of opioid misuse, the ADA has pledged to continue engaging in the following activities:

  • Prescriber education and training. The ADA encourages dentists—members and nonmembers alike—to take advantage of its free continuing education webinars on model opioid prescribing. The training modules include helping dentists recognize when a patient may be seeking opioids for nonmedical purposes, and knowing how to approach and refer them for appropriate treatment. Other coursework is also available. Further, the ADA believes that dental schools should include appropriate education in addictive disease and pain management as part of the core curricula.
  • Prescription drug monitoring. The ADA asks dentists to register with their state prescription drug monitoring program, if available. Dentists can leverage these programs to assess whether a patient may be “doctor shopping.” The ADA also encourages dentists who prescribe opioids for treatment of dental pain to periodically review their compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration recommendations and regulations.
  • Professional and patient awareness. The ADA will continue to use its various member outreach tools to raise awareness about the problems associated with opioid abuse, and to share actions dentists can take to help. The Association also works with federal officials in alerting patients about the proper disposal of opioid drugs no longer needed.

The ADA points out that dentists who practice in good faith and who use professional judgment regarding the prescription of opioids for the treatment of pain should not be held responsible for the willful and deceptive behavior of patients who successfully obtain opioids for nondental purposes.