On April 1, the Biden-Harris Administration released its Statement of Drug Policy Priorities to continue the effort to end the opioid epidemic. The statement works in tandem with the American Dental Association’s (ADA) similar goals to curb opioid use, ADA News reports

The federal government named the following seven items as priorities for the Office of National Drug Control Policy for the next year:

  • Expanding access to evidence-based treatment;
  • Advancing racial equity in the approach to drug policy;
  • Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts;
  • Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use;
  • Reducing the supply of illicit substances;
  • Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce; and
  • Expanding access to recovery support services.

As the April 1 statement notes, overdose deaths have increased 35% since 2015 and hit a historic and devastating annual high of 70,630 deaths in 2019. New information suggests that COVID-19 has worsened the opioid epidemic. In March 2021, President Joe Biden allocated $4 billion in the American Rescue Plan to allow the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to behavioral health services.

Knowledge about opioid prescription misuse is crucial for dentists. Dentists prescribe 1 in 10 opioid prescriptions in the United States.

Dr. Brooke Fukuoka, a member of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, supports the Administration’s priorities and noted the importance of mental healthcare.

“Mental health, like dental health, is part of overall health,” she said. “Early detection, risk-based care and prevention are also important in mental health. While unmet needs in dental health can lead to infection, pain and tooth loss, unmet needs in mental health can lead to self-harm, harm to others and substance misuse.”

Implementing medication stewardship in dental practices is an important step to protect patient health and mitigate liability risk. A quick checklist for dentists to consider when prescribing opioids is the “five rights:” Right patient, right drug, right time, right dose and right duration.

Visit the ADA website for more information for dentists regarding the opioid crisis and safe prescribing.

Dentists are reminded to visit the New York State Dental Association website for up-to-date information on NYS Health Law alerts and more. MLMIC also encourages dentists to monitor updates on our resources page and find additional guidance for dental practices on our blog.