Medication misuse can begin with a valid opioid prescription from a trusted health care professional.
Your child may think, “If my doctor prescribed this, it must be safe.” There are obviously times when such medications are needed, helpful, and should be taken. Still, it’s important to be fully aware of the risks of these medications and to learn how to minimize the chances that your child will misuse them.
Consider posing these questions to your child’s health care provider:
- Is a prescription opioid necessary to treat their pain? Would alternatives like an over-the-counter pain reliever work? For chronic pain, can we explore other treatments such as physical therapy? Are there alternatives to help treat their depression or anxiety?
- How many pills are being prescribed and over what time? Is it necessary to prescribe this number of pills?
- What are the risks of misuse of this drug?
- What are the potential interactions between this and other medications? Between this and alcohol or other substances they may be using?
- Should my child be screened for substance use disorder before you prescribe this medication? If not, why not?
- Should they be screened for common risk factors for prescription drug misuse, such as depression or ADHD, as well as a family history of addiction or a recent trauma? If not, why not?
Due to the high risk of misuse and addiction, it’s best to keep all prescribed medications out of children’s sight and reach in a locked cabinet. Once the period to take the medication is complete, safely dispose of any unused pills. Resist keeping prescription medications until their expiration date or “just in case” you need them in the future.
Parents or adult caregivers should handle the medication, counting the pills in the bottle to be sure they are being taken as prescribed. Document when the prescription was filled and when a refill will be needed. Ask your child about any missing medication. Communicate openly with them about the risks of misuse, and be very clear that the medication is not to be shared with others. Finally, watch for changes in your child’s symptoms and be alert to any signs that they may be growing dependent on the medication.