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Prescribing Opioids to Children: The Dangers and Misconceptions


With the rising opioid epidemic at hand, it’s important to safely and efficiently treat chronic pain conditions, especially when it comes to children. Opioids have a similar chemical structure to heroin and have addicting properties. The misuse of opioids can have frightening effects on the body such as; an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, organ damage, seizures, and potentially death.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are trying to reduce the number of opioids prescribed to eliminate patients with chronic short and long-term pain from becoming addicted. Teens and young adults are at an even higher risk for addiction due to their developing brains. This raises the question, is it safe to prescribe opioids to children and young adults?

Why would a child/young adult be prescribed an opioid and what options do you have as a parent?

  • Opioids are often prescribed after surgeries, dental work, or for cancer patients.
  • With children constantly getting hurt, this raises a concern for how to treat their pain. When your child is prescribed an opioid, you may ask your physician if an opioid is necessary versus trying something over the counter, like Tylenol. There are also other forms of treatment available such as physical therapy, acupuncture, or massage. You may also ask if the quantity or day supply of the prescription is necessary depending on the condition being treated.

What should you do if an opioid in prescribed to your child?

  • It’s important to place the medication in a safe and inaccessible location to where your child couldn’t mistakenly get into the bottle. Also, if there are any pills remaining that you will not be using, properly dispose of the medication by taking to a local fire station or pharmacy. You may also ask your pharmacy for DisposeRx packets which can be directly placed in the prescription bottle. The DisposeRx packets inactivate the ingredients in the opioid so the medication has no threat if it gets in the wrong hands.

With the rising opioid epidemic, it’s important to be aware of the dangers and threats opioids can cause. Consult with your physician about the best approach for handling the care of your child when facing opioid pain medications.