Parents worried about risks, still think opioids are best for kids’ pain relief

Posted: January 28, 2019 | Word Count: 897
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Headlines filled with 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, 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.”

During Physician Anesthesiologists Week (Jan. 27 to Feb. 2), ASA wants parents to know that 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.

Parents aren’t asking about effective alternatives

While opioids can help with pain management for a few days after surgery or injury, there are effective alternatives that 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 range of 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 actually 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, a number of non-drug therapies can help with ongoing pain, including nerve blocks, physical therapy, biofeedback, meditation, virtual reality, massage and acupuncture.

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. That’s why 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 health clinic.

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.

* 89 percent of those whose children have been prescribed opioids said they’ve had those discussions.

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

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 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.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 53,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring that physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care that every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. Like ASA on Facebook; follow ASALifeline on Twitter.

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