Parents think opioids best for children’s pain relief, despite risk

Washington: Parents are still conflicted about opioids. A survey, commissioned by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) find that 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.

Speaking about the survey, ASA President Linda J. Mason, said, “The survey results shed light on the country’s conflicted relationship with and understanding of opioids. While most parents said they were concerned about side effects and risks such as addiction, improper or recreational use and overdose, they still thought opioids work best to manage pain.”

Mason added that while opioids may not always be the best option. It really depends on the type of surgery and how long they are required. It is, however, important for parents to know that there are many alternatives available that are as – or more – safe and effective for pain management. But only about a third of parents whose children were prescribed opioids even asked their doctor about pain management alternatives.

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Although short-term use of opioids can be effective when managed safely and the risks minimised, more than 2 million Americans abuse them and more than 90 people die of an opioid overdose every day.

The new survey of more than 1,000 parents of children aged 13-24, one-third of whom had been prescribed opioids, revealed that while 83 per cent of parents believe they are prepared to safely manage their child’s opioid use if prescribed, the facts don’t quite bear out.

The results suggest there is a need for improved awareness on: opioid alternatives; safe storage and proper disposal; talking to children about risks; and the benefits of naloxone, an emergency medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

-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, including non-opioid medications and non-drug therapies. But the survey results suggest parents often don’t ask about alternatives, or aren’t aware of the range of options.

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. But the survey results suggest parents don’t fully understand the benefits and appropriate methods of safe storage and disposal.

-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. Surveyed parents generally understood that.

-Parents recognise 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 – even if they’ve been prescribed by a doctor – may be at risk for an overdose.

The availability of naloxone varies by state. In most states it is available by prescription and some pharmacies sell it over the counter. Most parents recognise naloxone’s value.

Speaking about the survey, Dr Mason added, “It’s critical that we recognise the gaps in opioid knowledge and work to correct them, ensuring everyone understands how to use them safely and minimise their risks. A physician anesthesiologist or other pain management specialist can help parents address their child’s pain and decrease the risk of opioid misuse and addiction.”


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