In a recent article published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers from Yale found a 165% increase in the number of hospitalizations of children and teens due to opioid poisoning between 1997 and 2012.
For adolescents, a known point of access to narcotic pain medication is pills in the home, leftover from a prior prescription. According to a recent National Poll on Children’s Health, two-thirds parents who received a pain medication prescription for their child say that the child’s doctor did not instruct them about what to do with leftover medication. Half of parents reported their child had leftover medication, and of that group, only 8% followed expert recommendations to return the leftover medication to the doctor or pharmacy. Instead, most parents either kept the leftover medication at home (47%), disposed of it in the trash or toilet (30%), or used it for other family members (6%). Read the full report: Narcotics in the medicine cabinet: Provider talk is key to lower risk
In families with teens, leftover pills in the home represent easy access to narcotics for teens and their friends. Providers need to explain the risk to parents and offer them guidance on appropriate options for disposal. Additionally, providers should make careful decisions regarding the amount of narcotic pain medication prescribed to children, and encourage parents to ask questions about the amount prescribed.