Whether due to a sport injury, getting wisdom teeth pulled, or just a freak accident, there are many reasons why doctors may prescribe opioid painkillers to teens.
But with the nationwide opioid addiction epidemic constantly on the news, you probably have some hesitation about letting your teen take the prescription.
On one hand, you don’t want your child to suffer intense pain; but then again you also don’t want that one prescription to lead to addiction or act as a gateway to other drugs.
And that fear isn’t completely unwarranted. According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 400,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 misused pain relievers within the past year. Here’s another scary fact: many heroin users start off by abusing prescription medication.
So what should you do?
Obviously you know your teen best, but below are some things to consider if you’re thinking about letting them use prescription pain medication.
Keep in mind: there is a responsible way to use opioid prescriptions.
Because we hear so much about the misuse of painkillers, we can sometimes forget that the majority of teens use them with no issue.
Follow these steps to make sure your young loved one is using prescription pain medication responsibly:
Talk to your teen before his/her appointment. Before your trip to the doctor or dental office for the procedure, have a chat with your teen about prescription opioid painkillers.
Don’t forget to mention:
- Doctors prescribe pain medication for severe or moderately severe pain.
- Many pain meds are very addictive.
- Do not share your medication! It’s specifically prescribed for you, and you should be the only one taking it. What’s a normal dose for you, could be fatal for someone else.
- Mixing prescription painkillers with alcohol is deadly (even though it’s illegal for you to drink anyway).
- You can also take over-the-counter pain meds or try other more natural ways to lessen your pain.
Also have a chat with the doctor. Internet research alone might not cut it. So you may also want to have a discussion with the doctor about the different prescription options, any concerns you have about addiction, different painkiller options, what to expect after the procedure, how long the teen should be on the medication, dosage, etc.
After your teen gets the prescription …
Monitor usage closely. Before leaving office, have the doctor clearly explain to the both of you the medicine he or she is prescribing, side effects, overdose risk, the proper dosage, and the duration. Since the painkillers are so powerful, many prescriptions will call for them to be taken at least six to eight hours apart (some as much as 10 hours apart). But when the pain hits, your teen (just like many adults) could be tempted to take them before they are supposed to.
Keep the meds with you. Yes, you (and probably the doctor) have had the conversation with your teen about painkiller misuse. And, yes, you respect and trust your teenager. But is there really any good reason to allow him or her to keep an entire bottle of powerful painkillers? If you really can’t think of any, you might just want to keep the prescription with you. For your teen, it removes the temptation to overuse or share with friends. Each day, you can give your teen the appropriate amount of pills they will need.
Get rid of extra pills. When the prescription days are over, make sure you get any leftover pills out of your house. You can drop it off at an official prescription drop off location (find one here) or properly dispose of the medication at home.
As we mentioned earlier, most teens take prescription painkillers without any problems. Being thoughtful, and taking these precautions can help make the experience successful and result in a lifetime of responsible use of prescriptions.
When Opioid Pain Relievers Are Prescribed For Your Child: What You Should Know (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)
Prescription Painkillers: Should You Teenager Ever Take Them? (Your Teen Mag)
Youth and Prescription Painkillers: What Parents Need to Know (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)
Misuse of Prescription Pain Relievers (Food and Drug Administration)