A common rite of passage—having your wisdom teeth pulled—might be raising the risk of teens and young adults becoming addicted to opioids, a new study out Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests. Youngsters who are prescribed opioids by their dentist, often for wisdom tooth extractions, are more likely to abuse opioids within a year’s time than those who don’t get prescribed dental opioids, the study found.
Last year, more than 60,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the U.S., the largest recorded toll yet. The sharp uptick in deaths as of late has largely been caused by illicit opioids such as fentanyl, not prescribed painkillers. While only a small percentage of people who are prescribed opioids develop a harmful addiction, the risk of addiction does tend to increase the more we are exposed, which has led doctors and researchers to explore ways to safely cut back on opioid prescribing.