Doctors Are Still Prescribing Opioid To Large Number Of Teens And Young Adults

Majority of opioid prescription among teenagers and young adults are given to treat dental disorders, new research has found. The findings cause serious alarm because young people are at high risk of drug misuse.   ( Michal Jarmoluk | Pixabay )

Despite the alarming number of opioid misuse across the country, a study found that the rate of prescription among teenagers and young adults remain high.

Researchers analyzed records of visits to emergency rooms and outpatient clinics among people ages 13 to 22 between 2005 and 2015. They used data from two national surveys conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Opioid Prescription To Teenagers, Young Adults

In the study published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers revealed that there have been more than 78,000 visits to emergency rooms and outpatient clinics among adolescents and young adults. About 15 percent of the total number of emergency room visits and 3 percent of all outpatient clinic visits led to an opioid prescription.

"To be frank, these were numbers that surprised us a little bit with how high those numbers were," Joel Hudgins, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study, told CNN.

For teens, 60 percent of visits for dental disorders resulted in an opioid prescription. The drug was also given to teens for collarbone and ankle fractures.

Meanwhile, among young adults, dental disorders were also the primary reason (58 percent) for getting an opioid prescription, followed by lower back pain (38 percent), and then neck sprain (35 percent).

Hudgins commented that the data is "strikingly similar" to what happens when adults visit emergency rooms.

"There are national guidelines on opioid prescribing for adults, and that really helps prescribers know how long, what the right duration is, and what the right opioid is, and things like that," he explained. "There really aren't those guidelines, or at least not at the national level, for adolescents and young adults."

Teens, Young Adults At Risk Of Opioid Misuse

The findings cause serious concern because teens and young adults are at a high risk of an opioid-use disorder. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 2.1 million people aged 12 and older had an opioid-use disorder.

Hudgins also warned that opioid prescription among the age group has been linked to future long-term opioid use.

He is calling for officials to create recommendations and guidelines for doctors. He also advised parents to inform parents about the risks of opioid, minimum dose, and how long their children have to take the medication. Hudgins also reminded parents to talk to healthcare providers about the proper way of disposing unused opioid to prevent misuse.

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