The Opioid Epidemic

Almost a year ago, Dr. Oakley and his wife, Cherron walked out of the 2017 National Seattle Study Club meeting in Orlando, FL with a heavy weight on their shoulders. What were they going to do about the thousands of kids, teens and adults dying from an overdose on the legal prescription of opioids prescribed by their doctor?


What are opioids?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others.”


What’s the problem?

Over the past decade, death by overdose of opioid-related prescriptions substantially increased in the United States. The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 23 percent of opioids are used non-medically and “dentists wrote a third most opioid prescriptions in the U.S.” While at the 2017 meeting, The Stutman Switalski Group shook Dr. Oakley and Cherron with the devastating stories of prescription opioid-related overdose deaths. Bob Stutman, former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Judge Jodi Debbrecht Switalski informed the group of doctors about the drug abuse epidemic that is taking over the country and what those doctors can do about it.


What now?

Following the Seattle Study Club National Symposium, Dr. Oakley decided to make a change and follow the University of Minnesota’s Opioid Prescribing Improvement Program, which recommends significantly decreasing the number of prescription pain relievers given to each patient. Dr. Oakley decreased the number of opioid pills prescribed by over 80 percent to focus on his patient’s safety and health. He now manages prolonged post-operative pain by different modalities.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids.” NIDA,
“High Percentage of Patients Prescribed Opioids Following Tooth Extraction.” The JAMA Network, 15 Mar. 2016,
Minnesota. Department of Human Services. (2016). Opioid Prescribing Improvement Program. St. Paul, Minnesota: Office of the MHCP Medical Director, Minnesota Department of Human Services.