njtvonline.org: Advocates try to rein in prescriptions from dentists to combat opioid crisis


BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent | 


Dr. Elisa Velazquez graduated from dental school 19 years ago. She’s now the president of the New Jersey Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says education is one of many factors that may have led to the current opioid crisis.

“We want to remove dentistry as a factor,” she said.

According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, dentists write 12 percent of all opioid prescriptions.

“Especially for young teenagers that may be getting their wisdom taken out,” said Timothy McMahon, special agent for the New Jersey division of the DEA. “Today, about 75 to 80 percent of new heroin users started out by abusing prescription painkillers first.”

McMahon said the DEA’s diversion unit focuses its efforts on anyone who can legally prescribe the drugs.

“There is a very small percentage of the medical community unfortunately that are no different than a regular drug dealer, that are looking the other way and are willing to take cash payments to write a prescription,” he said.

But McMahon said they’re the exception and New Jersey is leading the way in efforts to lower rates.

“We have been seeing over the past two years the number of prescriptions written for prescription opioids have been going down across New Jersey which is a great sign. It means doctors are looking at other alternatives,” said McMahon.

“So the alternatives are Ibuprofen and Tylenol,” said Velazquez.

The Executive Director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, Angelo Valente, says New Jersey was the first state in the country to pass a law that requires doctors to have a conversation with a patient, or their parent if they’re under age, before an opioid prescription is written.

“To learn about the addictive quality of the drug and also to share if there are any non-opioid alternatives that a patient might be able to use,” said Valente.

New Jersey now also requires doctors to have at least an hour of education every two years on safe prescribing of opioids.

“We all want to do our part,” said Velazquez.

A recent Do No Harm symposium highlighted the New Jersey Dental Association guidelines for prescribing narcotics. The goal is fewer young people getting fewer prescriptions of a potentially dangerous drug, and that means fewer addicts and overdoses.



Contact: Mary Vassoler

Media Coordinator

973.382.4560 (mobile)

mary@drugfreenj.org (e-mail)


Safer Prescribing Practices for Pediatric Dentists at the Do No Harm Symposium


MILLBURN — As the opioid epidemic has continued to impact New Jersey residents, it has become critical for medical and dental professionals to become more aware of the risks of prescription opioids and develop safer prescribing practices.

Studies have estimated that dentists write 12 percent of all opioid prescriptions, and unused dentally-prescribed opioids cause 1,500 deaths each year, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ), the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New Jersey Division, the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry will host a Do No Harm Symposium on Wednesday, January 30th to discuss the links between prescription opioids and heroin use and steps toward safer prescribing in New Jersey’s medical communities, specifically in pediatric dentistry.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ), a non-profit organization, helps to raise awareness of substance use prevention through education and outreach. “We have to stop this disease on all fronts, and working with our partners in the medical community and law enforcement is the first step,”  PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente said.

Nearly 6 percent of people ages 16 to 25 who received initial opioid prescriptions in 2015 from dentists were diagnosed with opioid abuse within a year, according to a 2018 study by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California. In comparison, 0.4 percent in a similar group who didn’t get dental opioids were diagnosed with opioid abuse during the same period.

The  President of the New Jersey Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and Chairperson of Governmental Affairs for the New Jersey Dental Association, Dr. Elisa Velazquez will speak about the alternatives to prescribing opioids to children.

“Pediatric dentists need to be aware of the New Jersey Dental Association Guidelines for prescribing narcotics to patients, especially children. Over the past 20 years, I have not written a prescription for opioids,” Velazquez said.

A representative from the DEA’s New Jersey Division will discuss the opioid crisis from a law enforcement perspective. “The DEA is proud to be a partner with the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey on the Do No Harm symposium series since its inception in 2013,” said Valerie A. Nickerson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division. “We have been able to reach more than 4,000 members of the medical community across New Jersey, and educate them on the role they can play in reducing the current opioid crisis. We look forward to our continued collaboration on this very important educational series.”

Join these organizations on Wednesday, January 30 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Days Hotel & Conference Center by Wyndham in East Brunswick, 195 NJ-18, East Brunswick, New Jersey 08816 to identify ways to prevent prescription drug abuse among pediatric patients.

For more  information about the opioid epidemic here in New Jersey, please visit: www.drugfreenj.org and/or Follow us on twitter: @drugfeenj.


Best known for its statewide substance use prevention advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication. To date, more than $100 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership’s New Jersey campaign, making it the largest public service advertising campaign in New Jersey’s history. Since its inception, the Partnership has garnered 174 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.