For Young People Addicted to Painkillers, the Path Less Taken -- Why?
By Stephen J. Pasi..., January 15 2014
Note: this piece originally appeared on Huffington Post
Abuse of prescription (Rx) medications, particularly of Rx opioids (medicines that treat pain), continues to be one of the nation's most concerning health problems. Mistakenly, many adolescents believe that Rx opioids are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor. But when abused, they can be as potent and as deadly as heroin. In fact, many teens and young adults who abuse Rx opioids move on to heroin abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls prescription drug abuse an "epidemic," and we see it as a public health issue that disproportionately impacts our kids.
But Rx opioid or heroin abuse does not have to be lethal. There are behavioral and pharmacological treatments that can save lives and bring even seriously addicted kids into long-term recovery. The problem is that many treatment programs have chosen to either rely on only behavioral treatments or only medications; and most physicians do not have sufficient training in either medication or behavioral therapy to provide effective treatment. So, when parents find themselves at the critical crossroads of what to do for an opiate-addicted child, what can they do to get help? What are our doctors providing, or even offering, to them?
While no one treatment approach is right for every teen, it is clinically sensible -- but not easy -- to find comprehensive care. We tell families to look for three things: First, the availability of professional counseling; second, medications and regular monitoring for the affected teen; and finally, family therapy to help that teen.
Teens who abuse opioids require professional counseling, combined with regular monitoring, as a minimum requirement of effective treatment. Their families can also benefit from professional therapy, helping them better understand the basis of their teen's addiction. This therapy can help both them and their child create a practical plan to recovery.