Narcotic drugs which are often prescribed for pain, like Vicodin or Percocet, can be highly addictive, so having alternatives can be critical to make sure addiction doesn't become a problem.
Elaine Lockhard's son Johnny took an alternative to narcotics when he had his wisdom teeth removed.
“I feel that if there's an alternative for managing pain that's not an opioid, that's terrific,” Lockhard said.
The rate of drug overdoses made her hesitant to have him treat his pain with prescription painkillers.
“I think that in this area, there's such a huge epidemic,” she said.
Opiates often can be a gateway to harder drugs, like heroin, which is much cheaper than pills, extremely addictive and hard to kick.
But some procedures are painful and require pain management and over-the-counter analgesics like Tylenol or ibuprofen may not be strong enough.
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“There's also ways to use local anesthetics so they don't feel pain at all, and one of them is the newer local anesthetic which is called Exparel, and it’s a long-lasting anesthetic,” McLean, Virginia-area dentist Dr. Timothy Gocke said. “It basically dissolves over 48 to 72 hours and it keeps the area numb so the patient doesn't really need the heavier narcotic pain pills.”
Gocke started offering Exparel to his patients last year and gave it to Johnny Lockhard when he extracted his wisdom teeth.
“I thought it was a great idea for my patients,” Gocke said. “I thought it would really help decrease the use of narcotics and opioids.”
Last summer, in response to the drug crisis in this country, the American Dental Association president urged dentists to closely review patient prescriptions for painkillers, which means some are seeking safer pain relief alternatives.
“Then there's also the potential for abuse, and that's very concerning, especially to parents of some of our young adult patients,” Gocke said.
Although Johnny Lockhard had a prescription for 10 Percocet in addition to Exparel, he managed his pain with only Ibuprofen and extra strength Tylenol.
Elaine Lockhard has also tried Exparel and is spreading the word.
“I think it's a great idea,” she said. “I told a few people in my Pilates classes and some people from my knitting classes, and people have asked for his name.”