While we're struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, it's critical to remember that we are still battling an opioid crisis. Over 45,000 people die every year in the USA from opioids. Unlike COVID-19, opioid deaths disproportionately affect younger people. Before surgery, my patients are concerned about opioid risks and developing addiction. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to protect yourself and your children against the opioid epidemic.
When parents are prescribed opioids their children are at 53% higher risk of opioid misuse
How parents affect the opioid crisis
Parents: if you are prescribed opioids, your children are at risk. 53% higher risk. Importantly, normal parental opioid prescription use puts children at risk.
This is different from parents that misuse opioids. Yes, if parents misuse opioids, their children are also more likely to misuse opioids. That's on the order of 30% risk to their children. But even "normal" opioid prescriptions to parents increase risk to children in the opioid crisis.
Why do parent actions affect the opioid crisis in children?
We're still not entirely sure why prescriptions to parents affect the opioid epidemic in adolescents. Possible reasons include:
- Genetics for conditions like chronic pain, psychiatric disease, substance use disorder.
- Shared (or learned) family health practices.
- For example, willingness to take pills for pain.
- Access to parents' narcotics and other medications.
Similar trends in alcohol, smoking, and marijuana use in parents and children
Similar to the opioid crisis, similar trends are seen for other drugs:
- Parents who smoke have children with nearly 300% risk of smoking.
- Alcohol use in parents predicts alcohol use in their children. Harsh parental discipline also increases the risk of adolescent alcohol use.
- Children of mothers who use marijuana have 30-70% higher likelihood of using marijuana. Paternal use increases the chance 80-200+%.
Do other drugs or parental behaviors put children at risk in the opioid epidemic?
Yes: if parents use other drugs, their adolescents have higher risk of opioid misuse. For example, parental marijuana use increases the risk of adolescent opioid misuse by 84%.
Aside from parental drug use, parent-adolescent conflict increased the risk by 26%.
This is good news from a certain point of view. These parental behaviors can be modified. This can reduce adolescents' risk in the opioid crisis.
What adolescent factors increase the risk of opioid misuse?
It's not just parents. There are many factors in adolescents themselves that increase their risk in the opioid crisis. For example, adolescent depression increased the risk of prescription opioid misuse by 75%.
Where are adolescents getting narcotics from?
Adolescents get their opioids from many sources. Some sources include:
- From physicians offices (25.9%),
- Friends or relatives (58.4%).
- Other sources (stealing from doctor's office, buying from drug dealer, 15.7%).
These sources, and likely more, contribute to our opioid crisis and epidemic.
How are surgery and anesthesia related to the opioid crisis
Pain is one of the most feared complications of surgery. Undertreated pain has serious harms (see my upcoming article), but misused pain medication can be deadly.
Undertreated pain has serious harms, but misused pain medications can be deadly.
Unmanaged pain can affect 1 in 4 patients and lead to long term opioid use. It only takes 5 days of pain medication to put you at risk.
Unfortunately, narcotics and opioids are used too often after surgery. In the United States, 83% of patients without pain are prescribed opioids! Compared to other countries, patients in the United States are prescribed over 18 times more narcotics than other countries. These also contribute to the opioid crisis and epidemic.
How can you prevent unnecessary opioid use?
Preparing for your surgery can help you reduce your pain. Less pain means less need for narcotics. Fewer narcotic prescriptions are safer for you and your children.
Less pain means less need for narcotics. Fewer narcotic prescriptions are safer for you and your children.
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