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Resources to Help Dentists Screen Patients for Substance Abuse

In the last 10-20 years, the misuse and diversion of prescription opioids has risen to epidemic levels in the United States.Dentists can play a major role in recognizing and preventing prescription opioid misuse. Many organizations offer tools to help healthcare providers make informed prescribing decisions and improve patient care.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)has online tools to help dentists screen patients for substance abuse. Dentists can access information on how to ask about substance abuse, how to communicate effectively to patients on the issue, and on referral treatment addiction centers. Additionally, the website has information on alternatives to opioids for pain management.   


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)recommends all healthcare providers, including dentists, to:

  • Prescribe opioids only when benefits are likely to outweigh risks.
  • Determine a patient’s prescription drug history and level of risk by accessing data from their state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) prior to prescribing opioids.
  • Identify mental health, social services, and treatment options to provide appropriate care for patients who misuse or abuse opioids.
  • Follow the CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain


Dentists can also refer to the American Dental Association’s (ADA’s)webpage on prescription opioid abuse.For our OSHA Review Subscribers:  The March/April 2019 issue of OSHA Reviewin Section X of your binder covers prescription opioid drug abuse and provides detailed information to help dentists make informed prescribing decisions. Additionally, for more information on prescribing controlled substances,the informational document “Instructions for Prescribing Controlled Substances in California” can be downloaded from OSHA Review’s website.

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