America is gripped in an opioid crisis of epic proportions, we are told by health care experts. Recent lawsuits have found big pharmaceutical companies guilty of paying financial incentives to doctors who pushed dangerous drugs to an unwitting nation.
Is anyone in your family at risk of opioid addiction?
Opioids are powerful feel-good drugs made from natural opium poppies or a synthetic version with the same chemical properties in the brain and central nervous system: deep relaxation, dreaminess, and reduced or no pain.
Heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine are all opiates made from the organic poppy plant. Methadone is a laboratory-manufactured substitute used to ease pain and wean addicts from the natural opiates. As such, it is under the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA):
“Methadone is regulated by the DEA and is only administered for addiction treatment through an approved opioid treatment program (OTP). Methadone is a full agonist opioid meaning that it acts similarly to other opioids by fully activating the receptors in the brain.”
The human brain has opioid receptors which, at an appropriate dose, create the drug’s signature and sought-after euphoria or “high.”
Many people, adults and children, who genuinely need the pain relief provided by opioids become addicted and find they have cravings after their prescription pills run out. At that point, law-abiding persons may resort to unethical or illegal means to get their next fix – before withdrawal symptoms set in.
Our kids deserve special consideration when considering opioid use and abuse. Teach your kids never to take someone else’s medicine. Have this discussion often. If you suspect your child is pilfering your pills, lock them up. It’s that important.
Tens of thousands of children under age 18 go to emergency rooms because they took medications while a parent or caregiver wasn’t paying attention. (Of course, every parent knows that constant surveillance of the kids is basically impossible, despite our best intentions.)
Doctors prescribe different dosages depending on the patient’s size, age, and gender. Taking the wrong strength can be lethal. Share with your offspring that taking a prescription pain medicine which wasn’t prescribed especially for them can have serious consequences, such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Breathing problems
- Permanent brain damage
Not only is it unsafe to take someone else’s prescribed medicine, it is illegal. If you suspect your child is taking opioids inappropriately, perhaps a tour of the county jail is in order, just to demonstrate consequences of actions.
It might surprise you to know that, in 2017, 2.1 million Americans ages 12 or older had some type of opioid use disorder. 90 percent of opioid addictions start in the teen years.
Kids are getting prescription pain killers from people they know.
Studies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHS) have shown that 53 percent of people aged 12 and older got prescription pain medication for nonmedical (recreational) use from a friend or relative.
Have a heart-to-heart discussion with your children about how opioid or any other drug misuse can have major, life-threatening consequences.
The American opioid crisis is being fueled by doctors who, through greed or zeal, order more pills than a patient needs for a course of pain relief. How many parents throw away unused medications?
A study conducted by Dr. Apurva Shah, an orthopedic surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, linked unused (overprescribed) painkillers to teen abuse:
“The finding that patients used an average of less than 25 percent of prescribed opioid medications suggests the potential risk of opioid overprescribing, which contributes to the nation’s opioid epidemic. For example, they said research has found that about 40 percent of teens misusing opioids obtained them from leftover prescriptions.”
How many unused medications are lurking inside your medicine cabinet right now?
If your pediatrician recommends an opioid treatment for your child, have a serious chat before simply agreeing that doctor knows best. Weigh the pros and cons of an opioid prescription. In many cases, opioid therapy is entirely appropriate and the parents want their kids to get the most effective pain relief available.
A survey commissioned by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) found that nearly two-thirds of parents were concerned their child might be at risk for opioid addiction – yet preferred their child receive an opioid after surgery or a broken bone rather than a non-prescription pain reliever.
Experts are coming around to what many parents regard as common sense: one of the most important factors, when a child is growing up, is a strong, open relationship with a parent.
Though it may not seem like it, your children do hear your concerns and respect you more for loving them enough to care. Don’t put off discussing the high risks of using pain medications with them. It could change your lives for the better.