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ADA president urges dentists to renew commitment to prevent opioid abuse

July 05, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays July 5 urged dentists everywhere to take steps to help prevent the widespread abuse of opioid pain medications, according to a Dear Colleagues letter published in ADA News.

"These actions would complement what the ADA has been doing for several years to raise professional awareness about prescription opioid abuse and provide resources to help prevent it," wrote Dr. Summerhays in a letter to all members.

Dr. Summerhays' letter was issued in tandem with the July edition of The Journal of the American Dental Association, which features a study examining dentist prescribing practices using data from South Carolina's prescription drug monitoring program.

"We're thrilled the authors submitted this study," said Michael Springer, JADA publisher and ADA senior vice president of business and publishing. "It's a natural follow-up to our July 2011 cover story on dentistry's role in preventing prescription opioid abuse."

The letter was also timed to coincide with the registration opening for the latest round of free webinars, which start Aug. 24. The ADA has presented these webinars since 2012.

"These webinars are a great resource for dentists to learn about modern drug-seeking behavior," said Dr. Andy Brown, chair, ADA Council on Dental Practice. "I encourage every member to take advantage of them."

In addition, the ADA Catalog offers the ADA Practical Guide to Substance Use Disorders and Safe Prescribing, an easy-to-use manual for safe prescribing.

"These resources will be tremendously helpful to dentists who are interested in combatting the problem," said Dr. Brown.

Dr. Summerhays also expressed concern about how lawmakers have been portraying dentists and other prescribers of opioid pain medications.

"Research on dental prescribing practices is still scant, leaving lawmakers to make far-reaching policy decisions based on anecdotal evidence and haphazard assumptions," she wrote.

"Politicians and the media have been oversimplifying what amounts to a complicated issue involving all aspects of medicine," said Dr. Barry Howell, chair, ADA Council on Government Affairs. "Dentistry has been at the forefront of the opioid issue for several years, and it's important that we share with members of Congress our ongoing efforts to reduce the use of opioids."

The ADA has lobbied for several provisions in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which Senate and House negotiators are considering the week of July 5-8. They include establishing a federal task force to develop best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication, increasing funding for drug disposal sites and monitoring systems, and helping communities develop support services.

"We can all do more to keep opioid pain medications from becoming a source of harm," Dr. Summerhays wrote. "Together, we can help stem the tide of opioid abuse that has been devastating our families and communities."

Additional information is available at