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Opioid Abuse in the U.S. and Its Impact on Dental Education

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issued an alert highlighting the devastating national prescription drug and heroin use epidemic.

Of the 2.5 million emergency department visits per year in the U.S. related to drug overdoses, 1.4 million are caused by prescription drugs. In 2013 alone, 71.3% of prescription drug overdoses were from opioids.

Physicians, internists and dentists are collectively responsible for providing 81.6% of opioid prescriptions. As treating pain is a daily routine for dentists, and since patients often see their dentist more often than their physician, dentists have a unique role in mitigating the impact of this epidemic—and it begins with health professions’ education.

On May 25, 2016 ADEA held a special webinar: Opioid Abuse in the U.S. and Its Impact on Dental Education. In Massachusetts, three dental schools have taken the lead on this issue by joining forces and advocating for legislation that resulted in a required curriculum to train dental students how to prescribe opioids—including mastering competencies in counseling, communication and collaboration.

ADEA was fortunate to have three dental education leaders, one from each of these Massachusetts dental institutions, Drs. Ronald Kulich (Tufts University School of Dental Medicine), David Keith (Harvard School of Dental Medicine), and Richard D’Innocenzo (Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine) to share how they secured a state-wide curriculum in dental education on the appropriate use of opioids in dental treatment. This webinar has broad implications for not only dental education, but also for all stakeholders in health professions education and practice.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Specify key events and statistics regarding opioid abuse in health care with a focus on dentistry.
  2. Discuss the “Massachusetts model” of bringing attention to, and leading change for, responding to opioid abuse at a state and national level.
  3. Identify implications for dental education and curriculum