By Mark M. Storer, DDS
The terms “substance abuse” and “addiction” have always had negative connotations, and most people associate these terms with a moral failing or weakness. It is very difficult for people unaffected by addiction to view the entire process as a disease.
The AMA first classified addiction as a disease in 1953. It is defined as “ a primary, chronic, and neurobiological disease with genetic, psycho-social, and environmental factors influencing its development”. Addiction is characterized by impaired control over drug use, continued use despite harm, and craving the use of the drug when unavailable.
Dentists should be concerned about addiction because there are alarming statistics that show a tremendous increase in the amount of drugs, including alcohol, that are being abused by the general population:
- the most widely abused drugs are oxycodone, valium, xanax, and adderall; opioids, CNS depressants, and CNS stimulants
- non-medical use of prescription drugs occurs by seven million Americans per month, which is greater than the number abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants
- the number of drug overdoses from prescription narcotics has exceeded deaths from heroin or cocaine overdoses.
- drug overdoses have become the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, exceeding the number of deaths caused by auto accidents.
- adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years make up the highest percentage of non medical use of prescription drugs.
With these statistics in mind, it becomes evident that as dentists, we are very likely to treat patients who are abusing drugs, have employees with substance abuse issues, or deal directly with addiction through our own abuse, or that of a family member or friend.
Dr. Storer, a 1976 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, obtained his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from Loyola University in 1980. Upon graduation, he completed a Residency Program in Hospital Dentistry at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in 1981. Dr. Storer was an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Oral Diagnosis at Loyola University School of Dentistry, and for the past 32 years has been a member of the Attending Medical Staff at Resurrection Medical Center, where he is currently the Chairman of the Department Dental Services and a member of both the Credentials and the Bylaws Committees. Dr. Storer is also a clinical instructor and attending dentist in the Residency Program of Emergency Medicine at Resurrection, and is a guest lecturer for the Department of Family Practice. Dr. Storer and his wife Katie have five children, Jeanette, Tim, Chris, Courtney, and Corey, and they reside in Wilmette‘ Illinois.