Public Health group takes on opioid fight

Christy Schmidt, Contributing writer

An opioid epidemic has consumed the United States. Doctors and dentists prescribe opioids as pain relievers, which can lead to patient addiction. Students from Mercyhurst University’s Public Health Department are leading a project with the intention of minimizing the amount of opioids being brought into Erie County.

Joshua Froess, junior Biology major, and Meaghan Kincaid, senior Public Health major, are heading a group of students from the RN-BSN program, as well as pre-medical students, along with Candice Kiskadden, BSN, instructor of Nursing; Judy Stanley, Ph.D., director of RN-BSN program; and Karen Morahan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Nursing.

The project will take place over a year and involves an outreach education process for health-care professionals, focused on those in dentistry. Dentists are one of the leading prescribers of opioids.

“About 23 percent of prescription opioids are used non-medically,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid and the other students involved in the project have concluded that for common dental procedures such as removing teeth or surgery, other pain relief drugs, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen, would be much better options for patients post-surgery.

The program is not targeting nor blaming dentists.

“We are just trying to inform and educate them to lower addiction and hopefully not put someone in the situation where they might become addicted,” Kincaid said.

An important part of being public health practitioners, according to Kincaid, is their responsibility to helping the community. She is confident that the Erie area will be a great place to start.