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New Regulations Impact Children’s Opioid Use

Though you may not realize it, opioids (or painkillers) are prescribed to children much in the same way that they’re prescribed to adults. If a teen is recovering from a surgery, for example, doctors do prescribe them pills to help during their recovery. The problem is that even these small dosages can be misused or even confiscated by addicted parents; leading the American Pediatric Surgical Association to set some new ground rules.


The guidelines for children and teens when it comes to opioid prescriptions, have now been heavily revised. Per The New York Timesthe latest rules now recommend non-opioid medications as a first line of defense. But there, of course, cases when stronger pills are needed and now a heavier emphasis on parent responsibility is being highlighted.


Dr. Matthew Kirkpatrick, who is a professor in the department of preventive medicine at Keck Medical School at USC, spoke to The Times about how children’s prescriptions need to viewed.


“This really all boils down to access,” he explained. “The imperative is to make sure that parents and physicians get the right information to manage the dispensing of the medication to their kids and the access that their kids have to the medication. The parent should be highly engaged in managing the child’s pain, in making sure the child gets the medication to manage the pain, but the child does not have access to the drug on their own.”


The guidelines also put an emphasis on the background checks of adolescents who may need opioids after surgery. Those who have faced addiction problems in the past are certainly at a grater risk, as are kids who have dealt with mental health problems. In those instances, opioid substitutes are highly recommended.


Rules issued alongside the prescriptions now include detailed instructions on how these drugs should be handled when given to youths under the age of 18. There is paperwork about addiction education, a long list of side effects to be wary of (such as oversedation or respiratory depression) and detailed instructions on how to keep these meds locked securely. Safe disposals are also covered to ensure that the meds don’t continue to get used past their prescription date.


Above all, Dr. Kirkpatrick emphasized that parents be active participants throughout the entire prescription journey. It is important that they are involved and educated when it comes to their children’s medication.


“If your child needs surgery, talk to your doctor, ask questions about what pain should be expected,” he concluded. “We want to be at the sweet spot, treating pain appropriately, maximizing benefit and minimizing risk.”