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Study says more Arizona teens using opioids without prescription

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

LISTEN: More teens using opioids

PHOENIX — A study released Tuesday suggested that more Arizona teenagers may be taking prescription opioids without a doctor’s orders.

Dignity Health‘s online survey of 313 teens and 201 parents showed 25 percent of teenagers said they were taking opioids without a prescription.

Most of them had previously been given the drugs by a doctor. Parents mainly agreed that opioids were an acceptable treatment for teenagers with post-surgery pain.

About 18 percent of teenagers said it was acceptable to take more than the recommended amount of opioids if they felt more pain than usual.

The survey also said bullying and marijuana use were talked about more often than opioids when parents discussed issues with their kids.

“We see teenagers in our emergency room all the time who are suffering from opioid addiction,” Dr. Sandra Indermuhle, who practices emergency medicine at Chandler Regional Hospital, said.

“It is tragic for them and for their parents. I believe strongly that one of the keys in preventing this cases is communication.”

Opioid use among teens could have serious implications for student athletes.

“Because high-school athletes can experience injuries, they are more likely to be prescribed opioids,” Dr. Javier Cardenas, the director of the Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, said.

“Pressure to get back in the game can lead to increased use of prescription opioids to manage pain. There’s an increased risk of prescription abuse and use in sports that have higher injury rates, such as wrestling and football.”

To fight opioid use and abuse among athletes, Cardenas was developing an opioid-education program similar to the Barrow Brainbook. Every aspiring high-school athlete in Arizona must pass the book before they can play any sport.

A pilot of the program’s being tested in the Tempe High School District.

Indermuhle, for her part, has been educating parents and kids on other techniques to manage pain.

“Opiates have their uses,” she said. “We really only recommend opiate use for acute pain – a fracture, or someone who’s had surgery [like] appendicitis. Pain medication is not the only answer for [chronic-pain] patients.”

The web-based survey was conducted from July 14-31, 2017. It targeted teens between 14 and 18 years old and their parents.

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