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In addition to Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many other ailments, October is also known as "Talk About Your Medicines" month.
The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency. Last year, Talk About Your Medicines Month was about taking action to prevent opioid misuse and abuse. As the epidemic continues, so are the efforts to combat it. This year, Talk About Your Medicines Month expands the scope to include preventing opioid abuse across the ages - from toddlers to seniors.
Opioids are a class of drugs that are used to reduce pain. They are often prescribed after surgery, injury, or for cancer pain. Despite the serious risks and lack of evidence about the long term effects, in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of prescription opioids for treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.
The most common drugs in prescription opioid overdose deaths are Methadone, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl. According to the CDC, use of the illegal opioid, herorin, has increased across the United States among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. The CDC as found that some of the greatest increases are found in groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, privately insured, and people with higher incomes.
An average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. According to Allied Against Opioid Abuse, approximately 53% of people who misused opioids obtained them from a friend or relative for free. Recent government data found that more than two-thirds of patients who undergo surgery do not use all of their painkillers, and few safely store of dispose of them.
The following drugs should also never be combined with opioids: anti-anxiety medicines (benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium), muscle relaxants (such as, Soma or Flexeril), sleeping pills (such as, Ambien or Lunesta), and other prescription opioids, such as meperidine.
Whether you are:
Here are resources to help you avoid misuse and abuse of opioid medications:
According to the Safe Kids Worldwide 2019 report, medicines (including opioids) are the leading cause of child poisoning. In fact, in 2017, nearly 52,000 children under the age of 6 were seen in the emergency room for medicine poisoning. That's 1 child every 10 minutes. Every 12 days, a child under the age of 6 in the United States dies from an accidental medicine related poisoning. Every hour, a child is hospitalized for that same reason, and every 9 minutes, a child goes to the emergency room.
To keep children safe:
Sadly, children who suffer from chronic diseases can have chronic pain, making them unable to be involved in every day activities. Families should work closely with healthcare providers to explore treatment options, including non-opioid alternatives. Poor pain management in children can put them at risk for persistent pain and increased impairment as they transition into adulthood. This may even be linked to the development of new chronic pain conditions.
Did you know that teens as young as 12, as well as college students between the ages of 18 and 25, have among the highest rates of prescription drug abuse? As a parent, it's important to teach your children to respect the power of medicine and use it properly. Recognize that all medicines, both prescription and OTC, have risks along with benefits. Take responsibility for learning how to take medicines safely and appropriately, and seek help at the first sign of a problem.
Many people think that misusing prescription drugs is safer than illegal drug use. Yet, prescription drugs can be just as dangerous. And, the easiest way for teens to obtain prescription medicines is from their friends or their parents' medicine cabinet. Prescription drug misuse, which includes opioids, is among the fastest growing drug problem in the United States.
Kids who continue to learn about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50% less likely to use drugs. Talk about opioids with your teen and their healthcare providers. Diminish opportunities for easy access with tips for the safe storage and disposal of medications. Remind your teen or college student never to accept or purchase prescription medications from friends, strangers, or other illegal sources, like unapproved pharmacies on the internet.
1 in 4 teenagers incorrectly believe that prescription drugs can be used as a study aid. Nearly one-third of parents say that they believe that ADHD medication can improve a child's academic or testing performance, even if that child doesn't have ADHD. It is both illegal and harmful to take someone else's prescription medication.
Sports injuries are common and may result in pain severe enough to involve a prescription opioid. If a student athlete is injured, whenever possible, treat the injury first with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Seek medical care if necessary. Opioids for pain should be considered only by a physician and only when other treatment methods haven't provided relief.
Here are some 10 facts about opioid use and older adults:
However, opioids may be a necessary part of a pain care regimen. When possible, your healthcare team should discuss other possible options that might be right for you or the person you are caring for. Many risks of opioid misuse and abuse can be prevented if you are armed with information about safe medication use and how to get the most from your medicines. Ask your doctor about all of the pain management and treatment options, including non-opioid and OTC medications.