Many people suffer from dental fear or anxiety. The journal of the American Dental Association noted that dentists view effective pain management as “the Holy Grail for achieving patient satisfaction” because fear can cause people to delay needed treatment, resulting in more pain! Concerns about pain management may lead to the use of stronger painkillers and prescribing more pills than necessary to ease short-term discomfort. In 2016, JAMA Network Open reported that 22.3% of US dental prescriptions were for opioids that carried a “high potential for abuse.”

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A 2019 Government Accountability Agency (GAO) study of “Patient Options for Safe and Effective Disposal of Unused Opioids” noted that prescription size contributes to opioid misuse. “The majority of patients who received prescriptions for opioids often do not use a large portion of the drugs dispensed.”  Unused opioids in the home may be misused by others and present a poisoning danger to children and pets. Other studies have cited the danger of over-prescribing opioid painkillers to treat post-surgical pain and relatively minor illnesses and injuries, such as sprained ankles.

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The 2018 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act included a provision directing the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) to review and report on ultimate-user options for safe and effective disposal of unused opioids. In 2019, the agency released its report to Congress. One section discussed why “federal agencies recommend take-back options as the preferred disposal method” for unused/unwanted opioids.

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