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ADA, White House partner on opioid prevention initiative

October 21, 2015

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA announced Oct. 21 a new partnership with the White House and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that aims to reduce rates of addiction, overdoses and deaths associated with prescription opioid abuse.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president, and Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin, ADA executive director, pledged the Association's support in raising awareness about the problems associated with opioid abuse and continuing to share actions dentists can take to help.

"Opioid pain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, have become a leading source of drug abuse among teens and young adults," said Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president. "As prescribers of these painkilling medications, dentists have a role to play in preventing their diversion, misuse, and abuse."

The letter was issued in tandem with a community event in Charleston, W.Va., where President Obama announced he would be issuing a presidential memorandum directing that all health care professionals employed by the federal government be trained in responsible opioid prescribing.

The joint initiative stems from the American Medical Association Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, a coalition comprising 27 physician organizations, 17 specialty organizations and seven medical societies. The ADA joined the task force in August and pledged to increase the number of dentists who complete continuing education webinars on responsible opioid prescribing by 25 percent.

The free CE courses, which will be available in early 2016, are open to members and non-members alike and will cover the latest techniques for recognizing when a patient may be seeking opioids for non-medical purposes, and how to briefly counsel and refer those patients for appropriate substance abuse treatment.

In July the ADA published a supplemental reference guide to help dentists prescribe opiates responsibly, spot drug-seeking behaviors, provide safe pain relief, and refer patients for substance abuse treatment. The ADA Practical Guide to Substance Use Disorders and Safe Prescribing (P035) can help dentists and dental team members detect substance abuse problems and drug-seeking patients.

Read more about the AMA task force initiative here.

The White House partnership announcement follows an Oct. 19 appearance on the Dr. Oz show by ADA spokesperson Dr. Ada Cooper, who along with a representative from the American Academy of Family Physicians, shared questions patients can ask health care professionals before taking prescription pain medications. The ADA urges patients to visit to learn how to keep opioids from becoming a source of harm.

For more information about prescription opioid use in dentistry, visit