In 2016, 3.6 percent of teens aged 12 to 17 reported misusing opioids over the past year. This percentage is twice as high among people ages 18 to 25. Most of this misuse is due to prescription opioids, not heroin.2

And research now shows that adult abuse of opioids can be traced to the legitimate use of opioids in teens.

A recently published study showed among 12th grade students who have little experience with illegal drug use and strongly disapprove of marijuana use, a legitimate opioid prescription predicts opioid misuse after high school. Researchers found that those who were prescribed opioids as teenagers had a 33 percent higher risk of misusing them by age 23 compared to those who never had been prescribed the drugs.3

Managing Pain

Prescription opioids, like codeine, fentanyl, oxycodone, Percocet® and Vicodin®, can be safe and effective when managing pain under the supervision of a doctor. However, non-opioid medications and treatment can be equally or more effective.

Doctors are encouraged to review the risks of opioid medications with teens and their parents before writing a prescription. Non-opioid pain medications and treatment alternatives should be considered. Caring adults should also talk to their teens about pain management and treatment, and build strong relationships as the first step to preventing drug misuse.4

What are the signs of opioid misuse?5

  • Fatigue
  • Fading in and out of consciousness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constricted pupils
  • Flushed skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Speak to your child’s doctor about pain medications, including opioids, before filling a prescription. And be sure to dispose of medications properly to avoid misuse by other members of the household.

If you or someone you know may struggling with an opioid addiction, call Horizon Behavioral Health at 1-800-991-5579, 24/7.

Visit the cdc.gov to learn more about opioids and pain management.


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