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Kentucky Law Uncovers Dentists Who Prescribe Opioids to Those Who Abuse Them

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A Kentucky law that requires anyone writing a prescription for a controlled substance to check the state drug monitoring database has led to the discovery that some people addicted to opioids are targeting dentists.

The law, signed by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear earlier this year, requires that all pain clinics be licensed, specifies requirements for ownership and employment, and obliges Kentucky’s licensure board to develop regulations for pain clinics. It gives law enforcement easier access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database, known as KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting). Doctors have to examine patients, take full medical histories, and check electronic prescription records before writing prescriptions for opioids.

Sergeant John McGuire of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Prescription Drug Diversion Unit told The Courier-Journal the abuse of drugs prescribed by dentists for tooth pain has not received widespread attention. “If you can prescribe drugs, you’re a target for these people,” he said. Dentists typically only write prescriptions for three to four days at the longest. It is more common for people looking for large quantities of opioids to prefer obtaining prescriptions from general physicians, who will prescribe drugs for longer periods.

Dentists most commonly prescribe oxycodone and hydrocodone, the article notes. Some dentists, who suspect a patient is addicted to opioids but appears to be in real pain, will prescribe tramadol, which is less addictive, according to McGuire.

“Dental pain is sort of an immediate thing,” said Mike Porter, Executive Director of the Kentucky Dental Association. “I think dentists are sympathetic to that, and maybe a little bit vulnerable. Hopefully, KASPER will help solve this problem.” He said his organization has been educating dentists and patients about the new law.

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