Common Medical Issues Could Cause Teens To Rely On Opioids

teen in hospital

The opioid crisis is terrifying to most parents. While you may think that most teenagers who abuse opioids got them from a friend, this isn't necessarily the case. Peer pressure may have its role in this crisis but it has been reported that 32% of teens who abuse opioids started taking them after receiving a prescription for them from a doctor.

Now that it is known how dangerous and addictive opioids can be, you may be asking, in what scenario would a doctor every prescribe such an addictive substance and surgery is the most common reason cited. One study found that surgeries accounted for 25 percent of all teen opioid prescriptions. The types of surgeries that have the highest rates of long-term opioid use are listed as bone fracture surgery, gallbladder removal surgery, hernia surgery, appendectomy, and tonsillectomy.

Opioids are meant to be used for a week or two following surgery but it's not uncommon to find patients using them longer than that as is evidenced by another study conducted that looked at 90,000 teenagers that had undergone surgery. Results from this survey found that about 5% of teenagers were still taking their prescribed opioid pain medication up to six months after their surgery.

Dentist treating patient with dental tool while male colleague adjusting light at clinic
Credit: iStock

Some dentists have been known to prescribe opioids after dental surgery, but it's rare and most opt to prescribe other types of medicine instead. As a safety precaution, you shouldn't assume this is the case and speak to your child's dentist about the types of medicines they prescribe prior to your child having work done. There are also some conditions like cancer that may cause severe pain and result in an opioid prescription. In scenarios like these, opioids may be the only thing that helps to alleviate pain and unavoidable.

If recovery from surgery is expected to be particularly painful and if you find out that your child is going to be prescribed an opioid, parents are advised to ask the following questions: When should their child take their medication and how much should they take each time? Next parents should find out how long the medicine should be taken for and what should be done with any pills that are leftover after that period of time has passed? Finally, parents should ask doctors about potential side effects as well as what should be done if they see them?

Whether it's from a sports injury or a routine dental procedure, it's possible that your child will have to have surgery and can't be avoided. Knowledge is power and one of the most important and effective things that parents can do to do avoid having their teens develop an opioid addiction is to be informed and educated. Doctors don't always initiate the conversation, so it's important that parents do.

In addition to asking your child's doctor any and every question that you have, parents should research the topic as well to get as much information as possible. Parents should also relay information gathered to their kids and talk openly and honestly with them about any risks and the concerns that they may have.

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