What to Do When a Doctor Prescribes Opioids for Your Teen
Even though most teenaged drivers do not get injured or killed in auto accidents, you still enroll them in driving school, make them practice driving while you are in the car with them, and take other measures to keep them safe on the roads, right?
So why would you embrace a “my kid won’t get addicted” attitude when your teenager gets an opioid prescription from a doctor?
Not every teen gets addicted to painkillers (or progresses to heroin, oxycodone, or fentanyl abuse), but some of them do. Because there is no litmus test to predict whether the opioid use will beget opioid addiction, it is in your best interests as a parent to protect your teen from this possibility whenever you can reasonably do so.
Talk to the Doc
The first step is to start at the source by communicating with the prescribing physician. Believe it or not, many healthcare professionals are not as knowledgeable as they should be about the dangers of opioid addiction, so you should not hesitate to express your concerns about this growing problem. After all, the doctor may not always know what is best for your child.
In addition, you can ask the physician about other pain management options for your teen. In many cases, an over-the-counter or prescription non-opioid pain reliever may be sufficient to handle your teen’s pain. Other treatments like massage, acupuncture, or even yoga can provide significant pain relief in conjunction with medication. Always remember that the ultimate goal is pain management (not pain elimination) and that most teens are hardy enough to overcome minor discomfort without drugs.
Take Control of the Meds
If you and your doctor determine that opioids are necessary for your teenager’s recovery, you can still take steps to reduce the potential for abuse or addiction. Before filling the prescription, ask your doctor or pharmacist what the smallest dosage and/or the minimum number of pills is to address your teen’s pain needs.
Once you receive the opioids, it is strongly recommended that you put yourself in charge of administering the medication to your teen. Keep track of each dose by writing down the times that your teen takes the drug. If your son or daughter stops needing the opioids for pain relief, dispose of whatever pills are left instead of keeping them on hand “for the next time you need them.”
Teach Your Teen About the Dangers
You can also make this process a teachable moment for your teen. Educate yourself about the possible dangers of opioids and then have a discussion with your teen about them. After all, it is never too early for your teen to begin taking responsibility for his or her medical health.
Point out that three out of every four heroin addicts took prescription painkillers like opioids before they tried heroin, and that there is no clear-cut test that can determine whether or not an opioid user will become addicted. If there are any risk factors that you are aware of which are applicable to your teen (such as a history of trauma, a diagnosed mental disorder, or a family history of substance abuse), be sure to mention these during your conversation.
Watch for Addiction Indicators
Finally, be diligent in monitoring your teen for any warning signs that may indicate opioid addiction, such as:
- Unexpected euphoria or extreme elation
- Dramatic mood swings or shifts
- Increased isolation or withdrawal from social groups
- Excessive drowsiness or nodding off during the day
- Intermittent confusion
- Unexplained continuous constipation
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
If you suspect that your teen is abusing opioids, confront him or her about it and be prepared to consult a medical professional for a comprehensive health assessment to determine if your teen is addicted.
There may be sound reasons for a physician to prescribe opioids to your teen, and there is a strong possibility that your son or daughter will finish the medication regimen, heal from his or her injury, and never look back. However, because the possibility exists for abuse and addiction to occur, it is essential to acknowledge the risk and to remain vigilant for symptoms or indicators of problems with your teen’s opioid use. Why? Because the consequences of opioid addiction can be catastrophic to the health and well-being of your teen and your entire family.
For more information about teens and opioid addiction, contact us today.