When it gets right down to it, all parents should monitor all medications their child may be taking, whether the child is athletic or not. However, a new report indicates that teens who participate in athletic teams and activities are more likely to mismanage or abuse their prescribed medications.
Of particular concern are prescriptions that contain opioids, an addictive narcotic substance that is frequently prescribed to help manage pain. Because athletes tend to incur more injuries than non-athletes, these teens tend to be prescribed opioid pain medications more often, presenting them with a greater chance of running into problems with abuse and addiction. With as many as 7.5 million adolescents taking part in athletic programs and the number of injuries totaling up at around 2 million each year, this presents a significant problem to the teen population.
A study recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health followed 1,540 teens and their usage of prescription medications. It showed that athletic adolescent children were more likely to be prescribed these types of strong painkillers, due mostly to the fact that their sports-related injuries tended to be more severe than others. Researchers found that, while male and female athletes were both likely to encounter these types of medications as part of treatment, boys were prescribed them more often and were significantly more likely to misuse or abuse the meds than girls.
One reason researchers believe this may be true is because boys are more likely to engage in rougher, full-contact sports such as wrestling or football, both of which have higher rates of injury. Another reason, researchers postulated, is the strong and unique influence the sports culture has on young men.
“Adolescent males depend on sports for social status, the maintenance of relationships with male peers and family members,” said lead researcher Philip Veliz, Ph.D., of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “In other words, sports are a powerful site to be recognized as a man, and male adolescents will sacrifice their bodies through athletic performances to prove their masculinity. Consequently, opioid use and misuse among males could be the byproduct of a play-through-pain culture.”
Despite the potential for abuse, however, Veliz and his colleagues don’t recommend that parents ask physicians to forgo this type of pain medication altogether. Opioids are frequently prescribed to adults as well, and young adulthood is the perfect time to help kids develop their pain management processes early in life, so that abuse or addiction is less likely as they grow through adulthood. In fact, parental engagement and monitoring can significantly decrease the likeliness of abuse. According to Veliz, teens are often given these medications and then left unsupervised, with parents assuming they’ll follow the label instructions. Parents who make it a point to know what the recommended doses are and inquire about them on a regular basis may help their children behave more responsibly when managing addictive pain medications such as opioids.
A growing problem in the US
The mismanagement of opioids and other addictive painkillers is a serious issue. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these medications were responsible for more than 475,000 emergency room visits in 2009 – a number which has since doubled. Children who learn to use these prescriptions responsibly at an early age will have a better chance of avoiding circumstances such as addiction, illness and overdose as a result of these medications.
FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings for oral medications. Ask your pharmacist how you can get FLAVORx today.