Parents Numb to Abuse of Narcotic Pain Meds by Youth, Poll Finds

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Bad things happen to other people. This is the vision that researchers found when they interviewed parents about teen drug abuse. In a report from the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, most parents did not seem to  be concerned with teen abuse of narcotic pain medicine. Most believed it wasn’t a big problem in their community, and was even less of a problem in their own household. This lack of concern translates into limited support for policies that would minimize the ways that these drugs get into the hands of children and teens.

Not in My Household

For some parents, drug problems happen to other peoples’ children; especially if the drugs are being used in the home. In the study, only 19 percent of parents had concerns of narcotic pain medicine misuse in their own families. However, 35 percent of these parents were concerned about narcotic pain medicine misuse in the larger arena of their community, yet these pain medicines are lurking in the home and are often easily accessible to children.

Parents admitted that pain prescriptions are in their home medicine cabinets, yet most parents did not see a great danger in it. When asked about narcotic pain medicine use in their home over the last five years, the parents offered these statistics:

  • 66 percent of parents had taken at least one pain prescription home
  • 35 percent of their children had taken at least one pain medicine prescription
  • More than 50 percent of the children’s prescriptions were narcotic pain medicine

Whether it was an adult’s or child’s pain medicine, narcotics were found to be accessible from the home medicine cabinet in more than 50 percent of the households.

Someone Else’s Child

While poll numbers revealed that more parents are unconcerned that their child may be abusing narcotic pain medicine, it also revealed that those who were the least concerned had the children who were the most likely to use the drugs. According to studies, white teens are three times more likely to use narcotic pain medicines than black or Hispanic teens. However, only 13 percent of white parents were concerned that their teens were misusing narcotic pain medicines. They were also not concerned about setting policies to restrict pain medicines like Vicodin or OxyContin compared to the 38 percent of black parents and 26 percent of Hispanic parents.

Less Support For Prevention

With less understanding by parents of the potential and actual abuse of narcotic pain prescriptions, researchers see less support for pain prescription drug abuse prevention.

Researchers found some positives, though, among the negatives:

  • 66 percent of parents believed that identification should be required when picking up their children’s pain prescription
  • 57 percent of parents would support policies that would keep patients from getting narcotic pain medicines from multiple doctors

Policies that would be inconvenient for parents tended to receive the least support. Half of the parents surveyed would not support a policy that requires them to return unused narcotic pain prescriptions to the pharmacy or their doctor. More than half would also not want to have a doctor appointment in order to get a refill on narcotic pain prescriptions.

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