Parents think opioids are best for kids' pain relief despite risks

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A survey shows parents are conflicted when it comes to the drugs

The opioid crisis continues to make its way to the forefront of consumers’ brains, as these drugs are being associated with many negative outcomes -- particularly among young people.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) conducted a survey of parents to gauge their feelings towards opioid use in medical situations, and it came up with some interesting results.

“The survey results shed light on the country’s conflicted relationship with and understanding of opioids,” said ASA President Dr. Linda J. Mason. “While most parents said they were concerned about side effects and risks such as addiction, improper or recreational use and overdose, they still thought opioids work best to manage pain.”

The results

The ASA surveyed over 1,000 parents of young adults aged 13 through 24. One-third of all respondents had children who had been prescribed opioids. While over two-thirds of the respondents believed that opioids were the best pain relief option, the survey revealed that not too many parents are inquiring about non-opioid options.

“Opioids may not always be the best option. It really depends on the type of surgery and how long they are required,” Dr. Mason said. “It is, however, important for parents to know that there are many alternatives available that are as -- or more -- safe and effective for pain management. But only about a third of parents whose children were prescribed opioids even asked their doctor about pain management alternatives.”

For those looking for pain relief alternatives that don’t involve drugs, the researchers suggest acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage, among several others.

The survey also looked at how parents disposed of opioids after they were prescribed, and how open the lines of communication were between parents and children regarding the dangers of the drug.

The majority of parents whose children were prescribed opioids reported having too many pills lef tover, though nearly 40 percent didn’t dispose of them correctly. Both pharmacies and police stations will collect excess pills, and the ASA notes dropping them at these locations is the best way to get rid of them.

On a more positive note, nearly 90 percent of parents whose children took opioids reported having a conversation with them about the possible negative consequences that can come from misusing the drug.

“It’s critical that we recognize the gaps in opioid knowledge and work to correct them, ensuring everyone understands how to use them safely and minimize their risks,” said Dr. Mason. “A physician, anesthesiologist, or other pain management specialist can help parents address their child’s pain and decrease the risk of opioid misuse and addiction.”

To see the full report from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, click here.

Making headlines

Opioids have dominated the news cycle as of late.

A study from earlier this month found that opioids were the driving force behind an increase in suicides and overdoses, while another study found that consumers are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than they are from a traffic accident.

Perhaps even more troubling is how many children are affected by opioid poisoning, as researchers have found those numbers have tripled in the last 20 years.

“What began two decades ago as a public health problem primarily among young and middle-aged white males is now an epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid abuse that is taking a toll on all segments of U.S. society, including the pediatric population,” the researchers wrote. “Millions of children and adolescents are now routinely exposed in their homes, schools, and communities to these potent and addictive drugs.”

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