Painkiller Overdose in Michigan: Are Wisdom Teeth Extractions Contributing?

Before on this blog I have talked about how oral surgeons prescribe powerful painkillers for use after wisdom teeth removal. It is possible some of these painkillers are instead used for non-medical use. See the posts and

An interesting article titled “Synder officials take on painkiller overdose ‘epidemic'” located at and written by Gary Heinlein and Joel Kurth, discusses a surge in overdose deaths in Michigan linked to the abuse of pain and anxiety medications (Oct. 12, 2015). One of the cases describe how a man’s addiction to painkillers was aided by a 30-day prescription for Vicodin after his wisdom teeth extraction.

The article states

“The state’s health department has said overdose deaths linked to opioids were increasing at a faster rate than for illegal drugs such as heroin — also on the rise — and cocaine. A state report also noted that another class of medications called benzodiazepines — prescribed for anxiety — accounted for about 9 percent of deaths.”

The governor of Michigan Rick Snyder has created a task force to explore the issue of painkiller overdose deaths. The drugs included those such as fentanyl, codeine and hydrocodone, or brand names such as OxyContin, Demerol and Vicodin.

The article later says

“According to a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, the proportion of overdose deaths attributed to opioid painkillers doubled from 30% to 60% between 1999 and 2010. Opioid overdoses caused 16,651 deaths in 2010 alone, the report said.”

The article provides a few nice charts. One of them shows deaths from painkillers in Michigan over time from 1999 to 2013. The deaths start at 27 in 1999 and goes to 204 in 2013.

The article says that most who died had valid prescriptions for the drugs. For those who died from opiod drugs over 75% were found to have valid prescriptions.

Of course if doctors take steps to further tighten down on prescriptions of such drugs this can be beneficial in preventing these deaths. Therefore, it is nice to see oral surgeons taking steps to reduce the amount of drugs they prescribe to their patients that would possibly be used for non-medical purposes (not related to pain after the wisdom teeth removals).

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