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Your Life, Your Health: Dentist hopes to curb addictions

Updated: Monday, April 28 2014, 05:26 PM EDT
CBS6 has been reporting a lot on the growing heroin addiction in the Capital Region. For many people, the addiction actually starts out with a prescription obtained by from a doctor or dentist.

CBS6’s Julia Dunn sat down to speak with a former prescription drug addict. He’s 21-years-old, local and wishes to remain anonymous. He became addicted to Percocet’s he was prescribed following surgery on his leg. Pretty soon he was popping several pills a day.

“It was part of my day-to-day. Wake up, take a pain pill. Go to class, come back, do it again.” He says. “It got to the point where I could no longer keep up with it. And then I started trying to find it elsewhere.”

He’s been clean for months, but says it scares him to think what could have happened if his addiction continued. The road to heroin addiction begins with abusing prescription drugs – when an addict runs out of pills.

“There comes a day when a drug dealer can’t get pills. But he can get heroin. And the people say, ‘No, no. That isn’t me.’ But they need something. So out of compulsion they’ll say, ‘Just this once I’ll do the heroin and he’ll have pills next week.’ But the heroin is cheaper and more effective.” He says.

Doctor Matthew Clemente is taking his own action against the local heroin epidemic. Once writing 15 to 20 prescriptions a day for patients that underwent oral surgery, his Troy dental practice stopped prescribing narcotics 18 months ago.

“We stopped getting phone calls from patients asking for more narcotics. It just doesn’t happen anymore. We don’t have any more angry patients coming in her wanting to literally choke me to get more narcotics.” Dr. Clemente says.

Dr. Clemente says he and other local physicians realized they were becoming a source for addicts. And it isn’t just patients.

“I’ve seen parents get angry. We’ll have the oral surgery consult and they’ll say that their son needs a narcotic. Well, he hasn’t even had the surgery yet. In those cases, I think maybe it is the parent who is looking for the narcotic.”

Going narcotics-free hasn’t cost him business, he says his patients like it. Especially parents worried that their children may become addicted.

Dr. Clemente hopes other practices – dental and medical – in the community follow his lead.
Your Life, Your Health: Dentist hopes to curb addictions

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