The opioid epidemic took 20 years to develop, and we're at the point now that it's not getting any better, it's getting worse.
That's according to Dr. Eli Eliav, Director of the Eastman Institute for Oral Health and expert on chronic pain.
A new report from the National Academy of Sciences indicates while the number of prescribed opiates has declined, many people are transitioning to heroin and other illegal opioids.
Dr. Eliav says an average of 90 people die every day in the United States from the overuse of opioids.
"The goal of this report is to come with something that will be a balance between helping people with pain, but still reducing the overuse of opioids," he said.
Eliav is the lone dentist that served on a committee that put together the report.
He says recommendations include looking for other medications and other approaches to treat patients with chronic pain, and changing the culture of prescribing.
"Educating dentists, physicians, and the population, the people that use opioids. Education should be on the level of medical schools, dental schools, and for the community as well," he said.
Eliav says other recommendations include investing in treatment for people with Opioid Use Disorder, and investing in research to better understand chronic pain and develop non-addictive alternatives to opioids.
Eliav maintains opioids may be the answer to treat acute pain, but they should not be the drug of choice for chronic pain.
The committee that compiled the report is recommending a fundamental shift in the nation's approach to prescribing practices.