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ADA joins surgeon general campaign to raise opioid abuse awareness

Association asks members to take pledge

August 25, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin


Dr. Murthy
Rockville, Md. — In support of U.S. Surgeon Gen. Vivek H. Murthy's national Turn the Tide campaign, the Association is asking dentists everywhere to take an online pledge to help curb the widespread abuse of opioid pain medications.

"Today, the ADA is asking dentists everywhere to take that pledge, regardless of whether you prescribe opioid pain medications or not," wrote ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays in an Aug. 25 email to members.

The clinician pledge is part of Dr. Murthy's Turn the Tide campaign to increase professional awareness about opioids abuse and mobilize health care professionals to improve their prescribing practices. On Aug. 23, the Office of the Surgeon General mailed a letter to more than 2.3 million prescribers asking them to take the online pledge to "end the opioids crisis."

"We, as clinicians, are uniquely positioned to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic," said Dr. Murthy on the campaign website.

The letter marked the first time the OSG has ever directly communicated with providers and also contained a pocket card for opioid prescribing that is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's opioid guidelines.

The misuse and abuse of opioid pain relievers — such as hydrocodone and oxycodone — has reached epidemic proportions. In 2014, more than 47,000 people died from drug overdoses, and 40 percent of those cases involved opioid analgesics, according to a 2016 CDC fact sheet. This doesn't count the nearly 2 million Americans the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported abusing or being dependent on prescription pain relievers.

"As prescribers of opioid pain medications, dentists have a role to play in keeping these drugs from becoming a source of harm," wrote Dr. Summerhays and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin in a letter to Dr. Murthy.

In the letter, Drs. Summerhays and O'Loughlin praised the campaign for reinforcing what dentistry has been doing for several years: raising professional awareness of opioids abuse and mobilizing dentists to take action. In addition to Turn the Tide, the Association has hosted webinars and participated in other national campaigns, including the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative and the Medicine Abuse Project. In July, the ADA News featured an open letter from Dr. Summerhays addressing dentistry's role in preventing prescription opioid abuse.   

"The Turn the Tide pledge is another small way to show how we, as a profession, are committed stemming the tide of opioid abuse that has been devastating our families and communities," said Dr. Summerhays in her email asking ADA members to join the initiative.

For more information about the Surgeon General's campaign, visit TurnTheTideRx.org.

For more information about opioids, including upcoming webinars and subscriber tips, visit ADA.org/opioids.

The ADA will host a free webinar at 2 p.m. on Sept. 2 for one hour of continuing education credit. Register here.