We all had to sit in the dentist’s chair at one point in our lives. Maybe it was just a routine check-up, plaque removal, or we were in for an unpleasant tooth removal and repair procedure. Many teenagers and young adults will get their wisdom tooth removed and will be prescribed with painkillers. However, the painkiller prescription could pose more risk than the operation itself.
According to a study approximately 15000 patients aged 16 to 25 who were prescribed with painkillers, nearly 7% of them returned for additional opioids between 4 and 12 months later. Almost 6% were diagnosed with opioid abuse not long after the initial prescription. The opioids that were prescribed by the dentists were mainly Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab.
Since the US is currently experiencing an opioid crisis, these findings are a warning and a wake-up call for all of us. Many can relate to this, having an acquaintance, friend, or relative who died due to an opioid overdose. The link between prolonged exposure to opioids and addiction has been known for a while. As stated above, people are introduced to opioids after the removal of the wisdom tooth. They’ll receive a prescription for a period of one month, and this significantly increases the chances that they’ll continue taking them afterward.
Teens and young adults are at especially vulnerable to the effects of opioids. Two sections of the brain are connected with addiction: the prefrontal cortex which is associated with decision making and the reward system located in the midbrain. When taking the opioid, the young person experiences the feeling of pleasure, due to the release of dopamine. It feels good, and they don’t have properly developed inhibition towards further use.
According to some pediatricians, the non-opioid pain medication should be enough such as ibuprofen when it comes to the removal of wisdom teeth. However, the dentists usually stick to the general routine and prescribe the opioids, even if it’s not necessary for such a long period of time.
It should be noted of course that opioids are very important when it comes to reducing chronic pain after certain surgeries. However, the dangers and side effects of its use shouldn’t be underestimated. Since the teens and young adults are particularly vulnerable, more effort should be made into developing non-addictive painkillers as well as focusing on methods and therapies which remove the harmful effects of these substances and at the same time alleviate the opioid addiction.
If you’re concerned that a close friend or a loved one might be or is already experiencing opioid addiction, the primary practical step is to get familiarized with this condition. After that, you should find the right clinic for the treatment. The Neuroscience Center in Chicago and Dr. Steve Best have worked with a number of different cases over the years and can assist getting you or your loved one back on the right track.
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