Prescription Opioid Abuse Also Problem For Pediatric Population
Opioid use and abuse is not just an adult problem – it’s become a noticeable problem for families served in pediatrics as well as the pediatricians themselves. That is, young patients with legitimate medical reasons for needing opioids are at risk for complications. And often, these young people have had little or no history of street drug or alcohol use.
The good news is, among adolescents alcohol and marijuana abuse has been declining. The bad news is, prescription painkiller abuse has more than doubled. In 2009, prescription opioids came in second to marijuana for over 2 million first-time use adolescents.
And just like family care physicians, pediatricians may be administering more opioids than needed. This greatly contributes to the recreational use of opioids. What’s more, adolescents are particularly sensitive to opioid exposure. Progression from the initial dose to addiction is both rapid and common.
Opioid abuse can manifest itself in a number of ways, not unlike many other substances. Parents may notice their child is failing classes, having social problems, or odd changes in friends and appearance. And of course, young persons are at a high risk of overdose. In fact, this can happen so fast, immediate family members remained unaware that there was as problem.
The American Pediatric Society has taken notice. Just last month, the APS urged its members to consider prescribing buprenorphine or other medicines to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine, is used to treat addiction to opioids, including heroin. It tends to ease withdrawal symptoms, decrease cravings, and reduce the risk of relapse.
To fully gauge the scope of the problem, here are some recent facts about teens and opioid use:
- Many teens are unaware of the risks of recreational use, and most who abuse opioids get them from a friend or relative.
- Between 1994-2007, opioid prescriptions given to teens and young adults almost doubled.
- As recent as 2014, over 460,000 teens were recreationally using painkillers, and 168,000 had a full-blown addiction.
- Prescription opioids are considered to be major gateway drugs for heroin. It is believed that at least 40% or more of teen opioid abusers will transition to heroin.
- In 2014, 28,000 teens used heroin in the last year and 16,000 used it currently.
- In 2011, almost 9% of high school seniors reported the illegal, recreational use of prescription opioids in the past year.
Pediatricians must take notice and alter their prescribing practices, if necessary.
I’m not talking about cancer patients. I’m talking about the opioids are often given for sport injuries, but are dangerously addictive if given for any length of time, especially for chronic conditions.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
Related: Study: Exposure to Alcohol Advertising Increases Consumption By Teens