Parents Fear the Use of Opioids as Pain Treatment for Children, Research Shows

Parents fear the use of opioids as pain treatment for children
Parents fear the use of opioids as pain treatment for children, research shows. Picture: AAMC

Two studies from the University of Alberta have shown that parents are increasingly becoming
wary of letting their children have prescription opioids as a treatment for their pain.

One study involved 146 pediatric doctors who said that they didn’t have much concern prescribing opioid drugs like fentanyl and morphine to children. But, they have reported that parents have become fearful of allowing their children to use these drugs to treat modern-to-severe pain that can’t be handled with non-opioids.

According to Megan Fowler, the lead author, there is not strong evidence at the moment to show how worried people should be about opioid addiction risk for children. He, however, added that treating pain in children is important. As such, physicians should exercise responsibility when prescribing opioids to children.

Why the Concerns?

Today, many people are seeking free drug rehabilitation info at because they have developed a dependency on them. Opioids are drugs or substances that work by acting on opioid receptors when taken to relieve pain. Once in the body, they produce a morphine-like effect.

Medically, opioids are used to relieve pain, including anesthesia. They can also be used to suppress diarrhea and cough. They can also be used to reverse opioid overdose or as an opioid use disorder replacement therapy.

But, some opioids are extremely potent. These are used for veterinary purposes only. Non- medical use of opioids includes the prevention of withdrawal or to get the euphoric effects that they bring.

Opioid addiction is the major reason why parents are fearful about the use of opioids as a pain treatment for children. This is a long-lasting, chronic illness that causes major social, health, and economic problems. It occurs when people use opioids for pain relief or pleasurable feelings.

Addiction to opioids is now a public health crisis whose consequences are devastating. People
are misusing opioids for varied reasons and overdosing. Neonatal abstinence syndrome incidences have also increased due to opioid misuse and use during pregnancy.

In addition to the increasing numbers of people that need free addiction help, the use of injection drugs has led to the spread of some infectious diseases. These include hepatitis C and HIV.

The Opioid Crisis

It’s estimated that 128 people die every day due to opioid overdose in the United States. Opioid abuse and addiction, including the misuse of prescription opioids for pain relief, synthetic opioids like fentanyl and heroin is, therefore, a serious crisis. It affects the economic and social welfare of the people, as well as, the public health sector.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total economic burden that arises from the misuse of prescription opioids alone in the U.S is around $78.5 billion annually. This includes the costs of addiction treatment, criminal justice involvement, lost productivity, and healthcare.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that physicians prescribe opioids to treat
moderate-to-severe pain in kids only when other medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen have failed to work. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are the leading drugs in Advil and Tylenol.

Currently, Canada is facing an opioid crisis with many people seeking free drug addiction help. Every day, two Albertans are dying from the opioid crisis on average. Most deaths have been attributed to illicit fentanyl, especially when people use it in combination with recreational drugs. For a long time, people have expressed concerns that prescription opioids have helped in the creation of addictions.

Fowler works at the Stollery Children’s Hospital as an emergency doctor. According to him, further research is necessary and more guidelines should be provided when it comes to opioids prescription for children.

In a separate study that involved 500 caregivers and parents, researchers found that half of the subjects would not agree to have opioids prescribed for their children. Only 33% of caregivers reported that they would accept to have opioids used in their homes.

Many parents would not allow the drugs to be used at their homes because they fear their side effects, overdosing, and addiction. Perhaps, that’s because they know people that started with prescription opioids and are now struggling to get free drug addiction treatment.

Samina Ali is a U of A pediatrics professor that co-authored the study with Fowler. She notes that though parents have expressed their concerns, 1 in 5 North American children are prescribed opioid medication before entering their teenage.

Must Opioids Be Used?

In most cases, opioids are prescribed as pain treatment after children develop acute illnesses or sustain injuries. Ali notes that failure to treat pain in children has consequences. On a short-term basis, investigating, diagnosing, and getting children home becomes difficult. And, on a long- term basis, a subset of kids develops a fear of medical procedures.

Ali adds that though physicians shouldn’t stop prescribing these drugs to children, they should use the latest research data to do so. Currently, her team is reviewing the current research to establish the existence of a link between short-term prescriptions and later addictions in life. The team is collaborating with the Alberta Research Center for Health Evidence. What’s more, the team is trying to find better treatments for pain in children.

Fowler notes that the Canadian government has published detailed guidelines that physicians should follow when prescribing opioid drugs to adults as a way to respond to the crisis. However, no guidelines have been provided for prescribing opioid drugs to children yet.

The Bottom Line

Towards the end of the 1990s, the medical community was reassured by the pharmaceutical companies that patients that use opioids for pain relief wouldn’t develop an addiction. Consequently, healthcare providers started to prescribe opioids to their patients at greater rates. However, the prescription of opioid drugs led to their widespread misuse. More people started misusing both non-prescription and prescription opioids even before experts could know that they are highly addictive.

Today, different countries are facing an opioid crisis. More people are seeking free substance abuse treatment to deal with their opioid addiction. This has made many parents fear the use of opioids as a pain treatment for their children. Nevertheless, further research is required to establish whether the short-term use of prescription opioids can lead to addiction later in life.

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