How to Make a Difference in the Opioid Epidemic

The Role of Oral Health Professionals in the Opioid Epidemic
By Heather R. Thomas, RDH, BS, MEd and Priscilla A. Rost, RDH, BS, MEd

In 2015, deaths from drug overdose in the United States soared to an all-time high, with the majority involving opioids. Despite increasing awareness about the dangers of opioid use, the death toll continued to spike through 2016, with preliminary data estimating more than 64,000 deaths attributed to drug overdose. Of those 64,000, roughly 14,400 were attributed to opioid pain killers; 20,145 involved synthetic opioids (excluding methadone), and 15,446 were caused by heroin. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this equates to 91 Americans dying daily from an opioid overdose, quadrupling the number since 2003. The immense breadth of this epidemic has policy makers and health care providers striving toward tangible solutions.

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