The Negative Impact of Opioid Drugs Upon Children and Young Adults

HEAL Blog is the recipient of the ADAP Advocacy Association’s 2015-2016 ADAP Social Media Campaign of the Year Award
By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Blogger

In early November 2016, a conference held at Xavier University in Ohio drawing hundreds of doctors, nurses, social workers, and addiction specialists began releasing shocking (though unsurprising) data related to the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic’s negative impact on children and teenagers. The findings indicate what many in healthcare already knew: we are at risk of creating a generation of children whose lives are fundamentally altered for the worse by addiction.

In the past few months, HEAL Blog has doggedly followed the unrelenting opioid-fueled devastation in the state of Ohio, and we have frequently brought to the fore the plight of children whose lives are have been put at risk due to their caretakers’ substance addiction and abuse. What we haven’t yet really covered has been the growing risk posed to children and teens whose access to opioids is made possible by their caretakers.

A study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics showed a 165% increase in opioid poisonings in children from 1997 to 2012 (Luthra, 2016). The rate of toddlers hospitalized more than doubled, and teens were found to be increasingly at risk of overdose (both intentional and unintentional) because they gained access to their parents’ prescription opioids without their knowledge. Both of these issues point to the need to better address overprescribing of opioid drugs, as well as to better stress the need for safer storage of prescription drugs.

Roughly 1 in 10 high school students admit to taking prescription opioid drugs for nonmedical reasons (McCabe, West, Boyd, 2013; Luthra, 2016), and roughly 40% say they got those drugs from their own prior prescriptions (Fortuna, Robbins, Caiola, Joynt, Halterman, 2016). This suggests that (1.) parents are not properly securing their own prescriptions and (2.) parents are not properly monitoring their children’s use and disposal of prescriptions. These suppositions raise questions about whether or not parents whose children or teens overdose should (or do) face negligence charges.

Prescribing guidelines continue to be tightened, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have both attempted to get physicians to limit prescriptions to shorter periods, and there is little evidence that imposing penalties upon people who fail to properly store or dispose of medications will have any appreciable impact on the adult behaviors. The concern, however, is whether or not those penalties will result in lower levels of abuse and poisoning on the part of children and teens.

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Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

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