Dentists join effort to end opioid abuse on county and national levels

On the state and federal levels, health experts are working to end the opioid abuse crisis in its tracks. 

This week, the American Dental Association announced a new policy pushing dentists to cut back on prescribing opioids. Instead, the association now recommends patients take over the counter medications like Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

If a prescription for drugs like Vicodin or Percocet is necessary, the Association says it should be limited to seven days. The Association also wants dentists to have mandatory continuing education, focused on drug addiction awareness and prevention.

Locally, Hennepin County recently accepted more funding from the federal government to help people who are homeless and fighting addiction. 

More than $85,000 in grant money will help a county program continue treating, preventing and educating those getting help from shelters and clinics in Minneapolis. 

The grant will also help fund a social worker position. The person in that role will help assess and refer patients to abuse care services. 

Fox9’s Jennifer Walch sat down with Emergency Physician Dr. Peter Currie from the Urgency Room. Currie says pain and the need for strong prescription drugs can change from patient to patient, but one sign of abuse is using the drug for the wrong ailment. 

“[They're] sing the medication for something that it wasn’t intended for. So we will see patients all of the sudden using this medication to help them get some sleep or because they are stressed,” Currie said. 

Currie added that patients do not need to finish an entire opioid prescription. 

“With the opioids, they should really only be taken when they are needed. Often there should be a non-opioid component of the pain management, an over-the-counter pain reliever like Ibuprofen, which is Advil or Motrin, or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Those medications can often be used of after the pain starts to improve,” Currie said.