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03-5631-19011: Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependency

Course Abstract:

Contact Hours (CE): The Academy of Dental Learning and OSHA Training, LLC, designates this activity for 3 continuing education credits (3 CEs).
Cost: $30.00
Questions? Contact Us: Phone: 800-522-1207, Fax: 800-886-3009, or Email:
Published: September 2010
Updated February 2020
Expires February 2023
Pages: 66
Course Instructors: Nancy Williams, DMD and Wayne McElniney, DPh, DDS
Health Science Editor:Megan Wright, RHD, MS
No conflicts of interest are reported by the authors or by educational planning committee members.

Educational Objectives

  • Identify epidemiological factors related to chemical dependency.
  • Describe signs that may indicate that a patient is chemically dependent.
  • List components of chemical dependency treatment.
  • Discuss modifications in dental treatment that may be necessary when treating a patient who is chemically dependent or recovering from chemical dependency.
  • Describe how drugs and alcohol may interact with dental therapeutic agents.

Course Description

Meets the mandated course requirements for Arizona and Texas.

Substance abuse occurs at an alarming rate in today’s society.

According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, “From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. We now know that overdoses from prescription opioids are a driving factor in the 15-year increase in opioid overdose deaths. Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have more than quadrupled since 1999.”

In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health ( ) adopted a revised definition of prescription drug misuse, ”which defined misuse as use in any way not directed by a doctor, including use without NSDUH obtains information on the following 10 categories of drugs: marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and methamphetamine, as well as the misuse of prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. Estimates of "illicit drug use" reported from NSDUH reflect the use of drugs in any of these 10 categories: a prescription of one’s own; use in greater amounts, more often, or longer than told to take a drug; or use in any other way not directed by a doctor.”

Though abuse of readily available drugs such as nicotine and alcohol remains constant, in recent years the misuse of prescription medications, particularly pain relief and cold medications such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Dextromethorphan, is on the rise. The most common substance abusing patients seen in a dental practice involves the use of alcohol, tobacco, sedative/hypnotics, barbiturates, and narcotics. Although the scope of dental practice does not include diagnosis or treatment of chemical dependency, the dental team must be aware of signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction. As health professionals we can provide education, early intervention, and provide motivation for the patient to seek help before abuse becomes dependency.

The dental professional’s clinical role includes:

  • Assistance in recognition of a substance abuse problem.
  • Relapse prevention for patients recovering from chemical dependency.
  • Treatment modifications to ensure that each patient receives safe and effective dental care.

This course will also assist you in understanding:

  • Prevalence and incidence of substance abuse.
  • Pathophysiological and psychological features of substance abusers.
  • Clinical manifestations of substance abuse.
  • Treatment options available for substance abuse.
  • Dental treatment modifications for patients who are abusing or recovering from substance abuse.
  • Protocols if a member of the oral health team is impaired.

This course is informational only and provides an overview of Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependency. This course is not intended to provide legal advice or set a standard for dental care. The oral health team must comply with state and federal laws, as well as ethical standards within their respective professional organizations.

About the Authors

Wayne McElhiney, Dph, DDS Dr. Wayne McElhiney, DPh., D.D.S. is the Director of the Concerned Dental Professionals Committee of the TDA. Dr. McElhiney has served on this Committee since 1984 and accepted the Directorship in 2006. He is a 1966 graduate of the University Of Tennessee College Of Pharmacy. A 1974 graduate of the University Of Tennessee College Of Dentistry Dr. McElhiney was a member of the Dean's Society and Vice President of the College. He maintained a private practice for twenty-three years, a member of the American Dental Association, Tennessee Dental Association, Nashville Dental Society. A member of the National Association of Alcohol & Drug Counselors, serves on the Advisory Council University of Utah, School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies. He received a certificate from the University of Utah on Alcoholism and other Drug Dependencies. He has served as Chief of Staff at Tennessee Christian Hospital, a Consultant for Drug Formulating and Pain Regiment for Alive Hospice in Nashville. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Nashville Dental Society, Vol State Community College Foundation and the Bluegrass Yacht & Country Club. Dr. McElhiney is a noted lecturer and published author and currently involved in teaching health professionals the disease concept of addiction.

Ms. Wright is a continuing education editor and writer as well as a Temp PRN with agencies in the Washington State area. Ms. Wright earned her MS at the UNM and Pierce College of Washington State in 1997 and certification in Utilization of the 970 Diode Laser and Safety in Dentistry in February of 2015. Ms. Wright works to implement Dental Education seminars as a Hospital-Dental Liaison building collaborative, mutual efforts to promote patient wellness between medical practitioners and dentists while prioritizing care for untreated, medially compromised patients.

How to Take This Course

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Contact Hours: 3.00
Price: $30.00

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