U.S. doctors say the best treatment for gum disease may involve an opioid pain medicine called the oral opioid pain medication naloxone.
The drug, which can be taken by mouth or injected, is a powerful antidote for pain and inflammation.
But the drug’s effects on the body are not yet well understood.
“We don’t know how it works and we don’t have any data about its safety,” said Dr. Scott Lofgren, chief medical officer for the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
The Academy is one of a growing number of groups that have lobbied to get opioid painkillers into medicine.
The opioid painkiller epidemic is on the rise, and a surge in overdose deaths has alarmed lawmakers.
“It’s not something that’s being used in the United States, at least not yet,” said Lofren, who is also a physician at Yale University Medical School.
“If you have a lot of cases of people who are addicted, and you’re prescribing these opioids, and the patients are doing well, you’re probably going to have a higher death rate.
So, I think there’s going to be a need for a lot more data.”
Dr. Robert Siegel, chief of the neurosurgery unit at New York University Langone Medical Center, says the idea of using opioids to treat pain is “just not a good idea.”
“I think we’re going to need a lot better data on how the drug works,” he said.
Dr. Siegel said a drug called nalaxone has been shown to lower the death rate from opioid overdoses.
“In fact, when we started testing it, we had a 70 percent reduction in the death rates,” he told ABC News.
“So, it’s probably not a bad idea, but it’s going do nothing for the patients who are dying.”
The United States has more than 9 million people on opioids, according to the U.N. The most popular opioid, OxyContin, is used to treat opioid addiction.
There are about 2.7 million opioid users in the U