Sept. 27, 2016
More than half of the narcotic painkillers prescribed after wisdom teeth removal go unused, according to a new study that suggests this could contribute to the U.S. opioid epidemic.
“When translated to the broad U.S. population, our findings suggest that more than 100 million opioid pills prescribed to patients following surgical removal of impacted wisdom teeth are not used, leaving the door open for possible abuse or misuse by patients, or their friends or family,” said study author Dr. Brandon Maughan.
Previous studies have shown that many painkiller abusers take extra pills that were prescribed for friends or relatives, Maughan and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine, noted in a school news release.
For the study, the researchers examined painkiller use by 79 patients who had their wisdom teeth removed. Three weeks after surgery, only five patients had finished their prescribed opioids, which included powerful drugs like Vicodin or Percocet, the findings showed.
“Results of our study show within five days of surgery, most patients are experiencing relatively little pain, and yet, most still had well over half of their opioid prescription left,” said study co-author Dr. Elliot Hersh.
“Research shows that prescription-strength NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, combined with acetaminophen, can offer more effective pain relief and fewer adverse effects than opioid-containing medications,” Hersh added.
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