The Rise of Opioid Use in Teens: Is There An End in Sight?

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— Warren Broad is a Huntsville-based Private Counsellor, Marriage and Family Counsellor, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Recovery Specialist. He is the co-author of several books, including the Amazon Best-Seller, “It’s the Landing That Counts” and creator of the Recovery In The Now program for addictions and compulsions. He is a retired volunteer firefighter, and runs a series of group programs for anxiety, depression, marriage, law of attraction, addiction and personal growth.

Ontario recently released current statistics on Opioid use in teens, and the numbers are startling. Opiate use is not a new problem. The reality is that opiates have been around a long time, and in various forms.  Historians have been able to trace the use of opiates back to 4000BC.

What is new, however, is that there has never been a time when more pain medication is being prescribed, and seemingly not just for pain. A recent American study showed an increase of over 600% for Dilaudid, one of the most potent (and addictive) medications for pain. The troubling statistic is that this does not match up with a similar increase in pain related illnesses or injuries.

Opiates have a dual effect in the body and the mind, making people feel less pain, but they also have a cognitive component that increases satisfaction rates in patients. The end result for the patient and Doctor is an overall feeling of satisfaction with the results, but at the same time, resulting addiction rates are increasing.

Is there an end in sight to this seemingly unstoppable rise? Yes there is, but to do so, we as individuals need step up our responsibility.

We cannot rely solely on our family doctors to help us in the management of pain, whether it be physical, mental or both. We, as individuals, must be responsible in paying attention to what we are consuming. We also need to be responsible for the encouragement of our government, politicians, and doctors to investigate and fund more alternative options for the management of emotional and physical pain. Our doctors work with available resources. If the primary and most accessible available resource is a pill, and other alternative resources are not equally available, a continued increase in addictions and depression will likely result.

Legitimately prescribed patients have a responsibility to keep opioids pills stored securely in the home. On almost a weekly basis I am asked “Why are we seeing such an increase in pill and prescription recreational use in teens?” The answer is simple: availability! There has always been a trickle down effect from our doctors, to users, and then into our children’s hands. If you look at the statistics of teen use of benzodiazepines and sedative in the 60’s and 70’s, you would comparatively see that hospitals and doctors were prescribing these drugs as their main options at the time. The best way for us to limit our children’s access to these pills is to be ultra vigilant in keeping them locked up or in a hidden location that children and teens are unable to access. A lot can be done by not having home access as a source. This does not completely shelter teens from encountering these drugs in other environments, but when these drugs are not encountered in the home, the potential for problems diminishes.

We also have a responsibility to initiate conversations in the home with teens about drug use, including prescription drugs. We absolutely must do our best to keep healthy dialogue transpiring. Teens will discuss drugs and alcohol with those that they feel are not judging them. The moment a child feels the potential for a conversation to go to a judgmental or hurtful place, the potential for secrecy and denial will increase. Although drug and alcohol education is present in the school, we cannot rely on these programs alone to manage our children’s drug and alcohol education. We need to keep the conversation going in the home as well, and in a non-judgemental, educational way.

If you need help or are unsure how to discuss drugs and alcohol with your teen, there are several avenues for support. One is to consult a professional that specializes in addiction, such as counsellor or local outreach service for direction and advice. Books are available at your local library about how to effectively talk to teens about drugs, and also look for courses in your area that are geared to parents regarding drug use in teens. Get educated, know the warning signs, and be alert. Through better in-home control and education, we are all empowered to be able to help turn the tide of opioid use.

If you have questions regarding drugs, alcohol and/or addiction, email me at [email protected]. You can also join me at one of my free public talks in Huntsville and surrounding communities. Join me on Facebook for details on dates and times.

-Warren Broad
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