Kathryn Clinton
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HomeParentingSurvey: Parents have misconceptions about opioids and kids’ pain relief
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Survey: Parents have misconceptions about opioids and kids’ pain relief

Mar 16, 2019 - 16:54

News of opioid abuse, overdoses and reports that 90 percent of addictions start in the teen years could make any parent worry. Yet parents remain conflicted about opioids: While more than half express concern their child may be at risk for opioid addiction, nearly two-thirds believe opioids are more effective at managing their child’s pain after surgery or a broken bone than non-prescription medication or other alternatives.

That's according to a nationwide survey commissioned by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

“The survey results shed light on the country’s conflicted relationship with and understanding of opioids,” said ASA President Linda J. Mason, M.D., FASA. “Opioids may not always be the best option. It really depends on the type of surgery and how long they are required. It is important for parents to know that there are many alternatives available that are as — or more — safe and effective for pain management.”

A physician anesthesiologist can create an individualized plan to best address patients’ pain based on the condition or type of surgery and decrease the risk of opioid misuse and addiction. Read on for four insights from the survey regarding opioids and pain management.

1. Parents aren’t asking about effective alternatives.

While opioids can help with pain management for a few days after surgery or injury, effective alternatives do not have the side effects and risks of opioids. But the survey results suggest parents often don’t ask about alternatives, or aren’t aware of the options.

* 59 percent said they would talk to their physician about pain management options, but only 37 percent of those whose children were prescribed opioids did.

* 88 percent recognized non-opioid, over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and aspirin, are used to effectively help treat pain. However, few were aware the same applies to other non-opioid options, including steroids (23 percent), antidepressants (9 percent) and anti-seizure medications (7 percent).

Beyond medications, non-drug therapies can help with ongoing pain, including nerve blocks, physical therapy, biofeedback, meditation, virtual reality, massage and acupuncture.

2. Parents are unaware that safe storage and proper disposal are key

More than half of people who misuse prescribed opioids get them from a friend or relative. Safe storage and proper disposal of the drugs are important to help curb the epidemic.

* Only 50 percent said they stored or would store opioids in a safe and secure place.

* 60 percent of those whose children took opioids said they needed fewer than were prescribed and had leftover medication. But only 39 percent of all parents disposed or would dispose of leftover opioids as recommended, including taking them to a local pharmacy or health clinic, flushing them down the toilet or mixing them with dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds before throwing them away.

* 61 percent correctly identified the ideal method of disposing leftover opioids, which involves taking them to a collection center at a local police station or drug disposal program at a pharmacy or clinic.

3. Parents understand importance of communication

When a child is prescribed opioids, parents need to have an open and honest discussion about the potential side effects and risks — not only with the child taking the medication, but other family members as well.

* 74 percent said they have talked to their child about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter medications and 20 percent said they intend to have the conversation.

* 91 percent said they are confident their children know that prescribed and over-the-counter medications can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.

4. Parents recognize naloxone saves lives

Naloxone (Narcan) is a lifesaving medication administered via nasal spray or injection that rapidly reverses the effects of an overdose. It’s important to know about naloxone because anyone who uses opioids may be at risk for an overdose.

* 71 percent agreed that having naloxone on hand is the same as having other life-saving medication available for people who suffer from conditions such as allergies, asthma or diabetes.

* 80 percent said they would be more comfortable having it at home if their child or another family member was taking opioids.

* 92 percent thought all first responders should carry it.

The 17-question Engine Caravan Omnibus Survey was conducted online Nov. 25 to Dec. 2, 2018, among 1,007 parents of children ages 13-24, one-third of whom had been prescribed opioids.

Visit ASA’s website at for information about all aspects of pain management and to access an opioid overdose resuscitation card that provides guidance on symptoms of an overdose and how to help.

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