Parents Encouraged To Talk To Kids' Doctors About Opioid Alternatives

By Paul Gaita 05/24/18

A new Colorado initiative is asking parents to educate themselves about their children's medication.

Mother with two kids on her lap talking to a doctor

Parents in Colorado are being encouraged to speak with their children's doctors about alternatives to opioids for pain management.

The statewide initiative from Speak Now Colorado is aimed at reducing chances of opioid dependency among young people by limiting exposure to such medication in post-surgery or pain treatment scenarios, especially dental procedures.

Speak Now Colorado is asking parents to educate themselves about what medication is being prescribed to their children and for how long in order to make their own choices about whether opioids are a necessary part of their child's recovery.

A slew of statistics have shown that prescribing opioids to treat children's pain can come with a host of related issues, and some with serious consequences.  

The Daily Beast cited 2015 research from the University of Michigan that suggested that young people exposed to opioids by the time they graduate from high school had a 33% greater chance to abuse such medications than other children.

Other studies have found that more than half of pediatric patients who were prescribed opioids for postoperative acute pain did not take the medication, and only 19% of their families had clear instructions on how to dispose of the opioids, which left more than 4,000 oxycodone and hydromorphone tablets in homes.

Despite the issues that may arise when opioids are prescribed to children, the medication can be the primary choice for their pain treatment, especially among dentists and oral surgeons, who are the top prescribers of opioid medication to young people between the ages of 10 and 19.

Breaking the connection between kids and opioids is the primary goal of the campaign from Speak Now Colorado, which was developed by the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health.

Speak Now suggests that parents speak directly with their children about prescription drugs, and arm themselves with the facts about dependency and misuse of such medication. That includes speaking with health care providers about alternatives for pain treatment.

"It should not be a judgement whether you do or you don’t," said Kent MacLennan, who is connected by both Speak Now Colorado and Rise Above Colorado, which focuses on meth use among young people.

As coverage of the initiative from KDVR Fox 31 in Denver noted, there may be a time in which prescription opioids are necessary treatment. But as MacLennan pointed out, "I think the important thing is that there is an active dialogue" between parents, children and their doctors about all the options available for pain treatment.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.