Prescription Opioids Overprescribed to Pediatric Patients
Author: Shernide Delva
Pediatric patients are prescribed opioids for moderate to severe pain but research reveals they are getting prescribed way more than needed after surgery. Research presented at the Anesthesiology 2015 annual meeting indicates that nearly 60 percent of opioids dispensed to children after surgery go unused.
This is crucial information. Often these meds are left lying around in homes where curious teenagers find them and abuse them which could potentially lead into addiction. The study confirmed that half of the patients studied had adolescent siblings who are at a distinct risk of abusing prescription opioids.
The problem is that prescription opioids is a major gateway to narcotic addiction in adolescents when used in a non-medical way. Adolescents have the perception that these drugs are “safer” than street drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor. Oxycodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid.
Researchers examined 292 pediatric patient’s admitted to John Hopkins Hospital who were prescribed opioids at discharge following a surgery. Myron Yaster, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explained the results:
“We not only found that some physicians inadvertently may be prescribing more medicine than is being used or needed, but the majority of unused opioids are not being disposed of properly at home. This is of particular concern, since almost half of the patients studied had adolescent siblings who are at a distinct risk of abusing prescription opioids.”
In the past, the treatment of pain has always been a national priority which led to the increase of opioids prescribed and the amount of opioids dispensed. However, when patients use these pain prescription, often they have pills remaining even after the pain has subsided. Then one of the three following things typically happens:
- The pills are discarded are remain in the medicine cabinet unused.
- Either the patient or someone uses the leftover pills for non-medical purposes
- The person discards of the pills
The epidemic of non-medical use of prescription opioids occurs when the second option happens. The leftover pills are used for non-medical purpose and works as a gateway to addiction. Adolescents use the leftovers and get their friends to try it as well. Overtime, more and more people gain access to the prescription opioids the crisis worsens
For the study, researchers examined 292 pediatric patients within the ages of 1 to 21 years old (average age was 11 years old) admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital for surgery. Parents were interviewed by phone 48 hours after discharge and again 10 to 14 days later to track:
- If the prescriptions were filled
- If pain was controlled
- How long opioids were used
- How much medication remained at the completion of therapy
- If parents were given instruction regarding disposal of leftover drugs
- If the drugs were, in fact, discarded
The results revealed that oxycodone (liquid or pill) was the most commonly prescribed opioid and was extremely effective in treating pain. Close to 81 percent described the pain relief as good to excellent.
The opioid medication was dispensed in quantities that would provide 10-14 around the clock pain control but the pills were only used an average of five days. At day 14, an average of 36 pills remained unused. Even more concerning, most parents (82 percent) were given no instruction on how to discard the opioids resulting in 6 percent of patients who had disposed of them at the end of therapy.
With this new information, researchers hope more awareness about what causes prescription pain killer abuse can help reduce the instances of it through prevention. It is hard to admit you have a problem with addiction, especially to a drug that was prescribe to you by your doctor. However, addiction is a serious problem and getting treatment now is crucial.
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