Dental pain can be excruciating, and many dentists prescribe pain killers understanding that their patients legitimately need the relief, particularly after oral surgery such as having wisdom teeth removed. However, in some cases, taking these medications as prescribed can lead to addiction for some people.
According to a study reported by PBS, dental patients who filled an opioid prescription after having wisdom teeth removed were three times more likely than those who did not fill them to continue using these medications during the year after the procedure. Of those between the ages of 13 and 30 who received the prescriptions, 80% had them filled.
Research also shows that when teenagers take a prescription opioid medication during high school, they are more likely than their peers to use opioids later. For these teens, having necessary oral surgery could be the “gateway” that leads them to prescription drug abuse.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that in Florida in 2015 and 2016, 3% of adolescents ages 12 through 17 admitted that they used pain relievers in a way that a doctor did not prescribe within the previous 12 months.
The report does not say how these prescription drugs were acquired, or how many began by taking legally prescribed medications. However, a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 3% of Florida adolescents between 12 and 17 stated that they needed substance abuse treatment for illicit drug use within the previous 12 months, but did not receive this treatment.