Prescription pain medication abuse is a huge problem in the United States for kids and adults alike. Although data shows that the use of actual prescription painkillers amongst youths 8th grade to 12th grade is declining, an overdose is up. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), overdoses since 2002 have seen a 1.9-fold increase in total deaths. While this doesn’t seem like a high number, consider this: in 2006, there were roughly 14,000 overdoses leading to death due to painkillers. That number continued to rise and sits at around 18,000 people as of 2011. Those 18,000 people are just that: people. They have families, have friends, and were leading lives. When numbers like those get broken down into the details, the true questions are asked: knowing that prescription pain medications can cause this sort of addiction when abused, are they even safe to begin with? If you have a child or teen in need of prescription painkillers, what are the precautions that are needed to take to make sure addiction isn’t in their future?
The Many Uses for Painkillers
Painkillers provide many benefits. Pain medications are prescribed by doctors to lessen or even help eliminate the body’s feeling of pain for any number of reasons. Some reasons for pain medications are:
- Relief from a medical procedure or surgery
- Relief from skin ailments
- Relief from headaches
- Relief and elimination of seasonal colds or allergies
We also take those medications in various forms as well:
- Orally as liquids, tablets, or capsules
- By injection
- By back passage (rectum) as suppositories
- Sublingually (situated or applied under the tongue)
Taking medications that are prescribed by our doctors are safe and effective when taken as directed. Some medications offer a dependence that will be hard to let go of, however when problems arise, seeking help and getting treatment is an effective way to lessen the dependency.
The Benefits of Pain Medications for your Child or Teen
Pain medications don’t have to be scary. When used as prescribed, they will offer considerable consolation to whatever your child or teen is having to endure. Whether your child or teen had a clumsy moment and broke an arm, or had their wisdom teeth removed, the likelihood of your kid’s doctor prescribing a painkiller is high. Doctors may go with extra-strength Motrin, but if something more severe has occurred, they can offer prescription opioids like hydrocodone (Vicodin). These medications will help your child or teen on their road to recovery from pain. However, monitoring their pain and keeping control of the medication is key to make sure that abuse doesn’t happen.
Giving Children Painkillers: What to Consider
Having situations where you are giving your child prescribed pain medication can make for a stressful time. Not only are you dealing with a child going through pain, but knowing how much is enough or how it will affect your child, in the long run, are things that need to be considered when a doctor gives you painkillers for your child. If you have a child between the ages of 2-12, some things to consider are:
- Discuss Options – Are the painkillers absolutely needed for the pain? While a doctor is giving you the details on the medication they will be prescribing your child, be sure to get firm answers to determine if the medication aligns with your child’s pain levels. Sometimes, alternative options can work just as well in place of actual prescription medications.
- Monitor the Pain – Some dosages can be adjusted downward depending on the pain and medication. Monitor your child to gauge their pain level. Some of their pain can be managed without medication.
- Monitor Behavior – Check on your child for strange side effects or different behaviors while they take the painkiller. If you notice a difference, contact their doctor immediately.
What to Consider Before Giving Teens Pain Medications
Keeping your teen healthy and safe is a big task. Teens are impressionable, and they can sometimes fall under harsh influences. Apart from that, they are often at a higher risk of addiction when given pain medications. Between the hormones and their quick decision making, they can fall into difficult patterns that are hard to recover from. Before giving your teen pain medications, some things to consider are:
- Having Control – Ensuring that you handle your teen’s pain medication is key. Teens can be pressured by their peers and their daily stresses to mishandle painkillers. Knowing their dosage and when they will need the medicine can help against abuse.
- Keeping the Lines of Communication Open – Discuss the painkillers with your teen in detail. The doctor will do their part to explain the medical side of prescription medication, however speaking with your teen on the dangers of abusing or mishandling the medication is necessary. Knowledge is power!
- Monitor Behavior – Keep eyes on your teen. If they start acting outside of their normal character or if they exhibit side effects of the medication, seek professional help immediately.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction in Children and Teens
Prescription drug abuse can occur in anyone. Teens are very susceptible to becoming addicted when not monitored. According to NIDA, some signs and symptoms of addiction in children and teens are:
- Lower school performance
- No longer interested in preferred activities
- Issues in school
- Eating changes
- Erratic sleep schedule
- No longer interested in friendships
- New friends
Keeping up with the changes in your teen’s life is hard. Life moves so fast, but finding time to have important conversations with them about the dangers of painkiller addiction can reduce their risk of abuse. Keeping them in the know will help them remember the dangers of sliding into addiction.
The Side Effects of Prescription Pain Medication Addiction
Painkillers come with a slew of nasty side effects. When abused, those same side effects can be even worse. For a growing child or teen, going through the side effects of prescription pain medication can be extremely difficult on their bodies. Some side effects of painkiller addiction are:
- Reduced appetite
- Feeling high (euphoria)
- Poor concentration
Painkiller addiction can also lead to overdose, which can be:
- Pinpointed pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Slowed or irregular heartbeat
If you feel that your child or teen has exhibited the side effects above after taking painkillers for an extended amount of time, it may be time to seek help.
How to Seek Treatment for your Addictive Child or Teen
Knowing that your child or teen will need help to recover from painkiller addiction is the first step to their recovery. At Northpoint Recovery, we understand that finding a treatment for your child or teen is important. We’re here to help you on that journey. Talk with one of our addiction and treatment specialists to learn more about the options available to you and your child or teen.
Drugabuse.gov. (2016). What to Do If Your Teen or Young Adult Has a Problem with Drugs. [online] Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-teen-or-young-adult-has-problem-drugs [Accessed 4 Jul. 2017]. Kidshealth.org. (2015). Medications: Using Them Safely. [online] Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/medication-safety.html [Accessed 4 Jul. 2017]. Kidshealth.org. (2015). Medications: Using Them Safely. [online] Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/medication-safety.html [Accessed 4 Jul. 2017]. NIDA for Teens. Prescription Drugs. [online] Available at: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-drugs [Accessed 4 Jul. 2017].