From Medical News Today By Written Catharine Paddock PhD: The United States is in the midst of a prescription opioid epidemic. Evidence suggests people who abuse prescription opioids often use leftover pills that were prescribed for friends or family members. Now, new research finds over half of opioids prescribed to patients who have dental surgery - such as wisdom tooth removal - are not used.
The study found patients prescribed opioids following dental surgery were more likely to dispose of leftover pills safely if they were given specific information about a pharmacy-based drug disposal program. A report on the study, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in Philadelphia, is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The authors suggest if there were more drug disposal kiosks in pharmacies, and if dentists reduced the amount of opioid pills they prescribe following surgery by just a little, it could reduce the mountain of unused pills - and therefore the amount of misuse - significantly. They estimate - if we translate their findings to the whole U.S. population - that potentially over 1 million opioid pills prescribed to patients following removal of wisdom teeth are unused.
Opioids to relieve pain are often prescribed following surgery or injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. In recent years in the U.S., there has been a dramatic increase in prescribing opioids for chronic, non-cancer pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis, even though they carry serious risks and there is no evidence about their long-term effects.
Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. Once addicted, it can be hard to stop. Taking too many prescription opioids can stop a person's breathing, leading to death.