What You Need to Know About Opioids and Addiction

Pain management medications in the form of opioids, like Oxycontin or Vicodin, might be prescribed to your kid following a bodily injury. Kids involved in sports and physical activities might be more prone to getting hurt, requiring medical care for serious injuries. Kids may also need surgery or dental procedures that can lead to a painful recovery process. Opioids can be highly addictive, especially for an adolescent. Their brains are not yet fully developed and are much more sensitive to the powerful chemicals of opioids for pain management. While doctors may prescribe opioids for legitimate reasons, your kid might struggle with withdrawal and addiction following their recovery from the initial injury.

Addictive Nature of Opioids

Why are opioids addictive if trusted medical professionals prescribe them? Why are doctors prescribing dangerous drugs? No one has a clear answer to why some people are more susceptible to addiction than others. Medical professionals often make a quick “risk/benefit” analysis when prescribing pain management medications. “Will this medication work to relieve this person’s suffering?” The answer is, usually “yes.” Opioids, though, activate the brain’s reward system. You feel a sense of pain relief by taking the medication. Many of your brain’s natural reward chemicals help you find relief from pain. For example, when you exercise, your brain releases endorphins to relieve the physical pain of breaking down and building up muscle tissue. Opioids can “hijack” the brain’s reward system. Your child might learn that if they want to feel good, all they need to do is take a pain pill.

Using Pain Management for All Pain

Our brains process all types of pain similarly, whether physical or psychological. Trauma and emotional pain, like rejection or depression, can often manifest in physical ways. The brain does not necessarily differentiate between types of pain and create various means of relieving pain. Our brain’s go-to for relieving pain is to release “feel-good” chemicals to help you get through. Your child, who is still developing healthy coping skills and strategies for dealing with pain, might be vulnerable to using pain management medications to deal with various issues. They might start to see opioids as a solution to all of their problems. 

Kids face a lot of pressure and are vulnerable to all types of pain while growing into adults. Your kid might encounter bullies or face social rejection at school. They might struggle with other psychiatric concerns, such as anxiety or depression, which can feel painful. When your doctor prescribes a powerful opioid to help your kid manage pain, they might be opening the door for your kid to use this medication to deal with all problems. Some people’s brains are “predisposed” to addiction; pain management medications may activate this predisposition in your child’s mind.

Alternatives to Opioids for Pain

What can you do for a child who has sustained a severe injury? You might want to look at alternative means of treating pain. Depending upon the situation, your child might benefit from pain relief by common anti-inflammatory medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These medications might be just as effective as opioids in treating pain. Aaron Huey and Dr. Mel Phol of Fire Mountain discuss opioids and teens on the podcast “Beyond Risk and Back”, “What Parents Need to Know About Opioids.” This podcast provides insightful information about opioids in pain management and discusses even using THC as an alternative to opioids. The best thing to do is to talk with your doctor about the medicines that they prescribe. You can advocate for your child by stating your concerns clearly and inquiring about alternatives, such as physical therapies, acupuncture, or other non-medicinal means of pain management. If your doctor insists due to the severity of the injury, ask how your child will taper off from the opioids safely. Talk to your doctor about the end date for the prescription and the dosage prescribed.

The Dangers of Having Access

Access to opioids can be dangerous for kids. They might abuse the medications or give them to other kids to try. When opioids are available in the home, whether prescribed for your kid or someone else in the house, your kids are at risk of misusing these medications. If you, your partner, or another member of your household require pain management medication, consider alternatives. Keeping these medications out of the home can help prevent your teen from having easy access. Remember that you are setting an example for your child by your actions and behaviors. If you are using opioids to manage your pain, have you considered or exhausted all other pain management avenues? If you have not attempted other methods or discussed your need for the medications with your child, you might be unintentionally sending the message that pills can cure everything. 

Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey and Dr. Mel Phol discuss opioids and teens on the “Beyond Risk and Back” podcast, “What Parents Need to Know About Opioids.” This podcast provides insightful information about opioids in pain management and discusses using THC as an alternative. Your child may be prone to injuries due to their hobbies or interests. Your kid might enjoy activities like skiing, snowboarding, or other sports that can lead to severe bodily harm. Your child might also require a surgical procedure or dental work that results in a prolonged and painful recovery period. Kids might be at a higher risk of developing an addiction when prescribed opioids for pain management. Ensure that you are talking to your doctor about alternatives and a plan to titrate off pain management medications. If your child struggles with addiction or other behavioral issues, Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Centers can help you rebuild your family system. We are here to help your family’s fire burn brightest. Call (303) 443-3343 for more.

Leave a Reply