Parents: Know the Risks but not the Solutions?

Opioids have been a rising issue in the United States, and more recently the opioid overdoses have been acknowledged as an epidemic. Of these people who misuse or abuse opioids, 90% of them have noted that their addiction began in their teen years. As the issue is on the rise, there is a known risk, but what is being done about this risk?

Half of parents who were asked in a recent study stated that they were concerned that their children were at risk for addiction, and yet 66% of parents stated that opioids were the best pain management solution. Unfortunately, a lot of parents and nonparents believe that opioids are the best pain management, probably because of advertisements and the eagerness for doctors to prescribe them. As much as we know that opioids are a problem and create high risk for addiction, one 33% of parents who went to a doctor with their child asked about alternative pain management to opioids. The numbers just do not add up. Further, the major concern is that over the past two decades, opioid related deaths in adolescents has more than tripled.

The Risks:
• Opioids are extremely addictive. Overdose is the leading cause of death in adults under the age of 50 in the United States. More than 2 million Americans abuse or misuse opioids because they are extremely addictive.
• Parents are not monitoring their children. By being aware of how many pills your child has taken and when they are taking them, it allows you to know what the habits of your child are. With helpful monitoring, you are helping to limit the ability to misuse.
• Parents are not talking to their children’s doctors about alternatives. Doctors will prescribe opioids because they are the most commonly known prescription pain management and most commonly accepted. Without starting the conversation, doctors will rarely offer alternatives.
• Utilizing improper disposal or not disposing of medications. By keeping the leftover medications instead of disposing of them, it poses a major risk to misuse.

The Solutions:
• Alternating between over-the-counter medications. This is known to help alleviate pain, in some instances, even better than opiates.
• Utilizing heat and ice. Heat, ice, rest and elevation helps to increase blood flow and decrease inflammation, leading to a decrease in pain.
• Physical therapy and/or acupuncture. Physical therapy will increase range of motion that might be causing the problem, as well as increase strength. Acupuncture has also been a leading pain reliever with minimal side effects.
• Quicker disposal. See if your municipality has a prescription drop box. If they do not, then make sure to crush up leftover medications and mix them with something like used coffee grounds, or cat litter to discourage someone from using the medications or taking them out of the trash.

There are known risks to using opiates. It is important for parents to not only recognize these risks but also to intervene and alleviate the issue before it becomes a real issue. Though it is not always up to the parents, parents can ask their child’s doctors for alternatives to pain medications, whether it be holistic approaches or other non-opiate pain medications. Even by opening the conversation with the doctor, it will show your child that it is a good idea to ask questions and advocate for themselves.