Medical use of opioids may fuel addiction in teens, finds study

Medical use of opioids may fuel addiction in teens, finds study

Nonmedical use of opioids is a growing concern in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 276,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 were found to be using opioids for nonmedical purposes in the U.S. in 2015. Based on trends related to prescription opioids among U.S. adolescents during 1976 to 2015, a March 2017 study found strong evidence of opioid abuse in teens who had first used them for medical reasons.

Most parents are generally vigilant if their children are sourcing substances with abuse potential from anywhere. While friends are always the prime suspects, parents are also watchful of any accidental ingestion of opioid drugs. However, it may be heartbreaking news for many parents that most American teenagers with opioid use-related problem first get them from a doctor, as the study has revealed.

Teens prone to use prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes

The study published in the journal Pediatrics highlighted that teens taking the drugs for medical reasons are most likely to use them for nonmedical reasons later. According to Sean Estaben McCabe, study author and a research professor at the University of Michigan, nonmedical users of prescription opioids are also past users of prescription opioids for medical purposes. McCabe believes that the health professionals can significantly contribute in curtailing prescription opioid misuse by controlling the number of prescriptions for opioid medications to adolescents.

Opioids, a class of strong painkiller medications, including OxyContin and Vicodin, are addictive and are one of the most widely abused drugs in the country. Opioid overdose is a severe condition that may require emergency room visits and result in fatal outcomes in some cases. The U.S. has witnessed a steady growth in prevalence of prescriptions written for opioids in the last 25 years, from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013, as suggested by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, the current study reported a decline in the medical and nonmedical use of opioid medications among teens since 2013, thanks to a significant improvement in prescribing practices and awareness programs.

Researchers stressed upon recommending alternative ways to manage pain than prescribing opioids, especially in teens who are most vulnerable to using them for nonmedical purposes. If doctors are prescribing opioids they should be careful about the amount of the drug prescribed and refill limits. In addition, parents need to ensure that opioid storage is strictly under supervision and any leftover stocks are disposed of from time-to-time. McCabe further added that eliminating prescription opioids is not the solution. It is rather important to prescribe them appropriately while minimizing the abuse potential of these drugs. He advises physicians to prescribe the lowest effective dose of opioids and supplement the treatment with milder pain medication.

Managing opioid abuse in teens

Exposure of teens to opioids is likely to raise the risk of use of these drugs for recreational purposes. Therefore, any of the family members taking opioid medications should be mindful of keeping them away from children and make sure that these drugs are safely stored in locked cabinets. Moreover, parents should educate their children about the complications associated with using these drugs for other purposes.

Early teenage years is the right time for such discussions as this is the time when teens tend to undergo lifestyle changes, take stress and experiment with harmful substances as an easy way to cope with life stressors. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California offers help to people dealing with opioid abuse. If someone in your family is battling opioid addiction and you are looking for some evidence-based drug addiction treatment centers in California, chat online with experts or call our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770. They can share details about the best prescription drug rehab centers in California.