(WRIC) — Despite efforts to end the epidemic of opioid abuse, teens are still commonly prescribed powerful painkillers.
That’s according to the findings of a new study recently published in the journal ‘Pediatrics.’ The study found nearly 15% of teens received an opioid prescription during an emergency room visit.
Sometimes those potent prescriptions are given for sprained ankles, sore throats, and urinary tract infections.
Yet perhaps most disturbing, is how often the dentist is handing kids powerful painkillers.
The study found when teens make an emergency visit to the dentist, nearly 60% of the time they will walk out with a prescription for opioids.
Ellen Earley knows how common it is to get hooked.
Her daughter, Saige Earley, was doing well in recovery battling the disease of addiction.
Saige relapsed after her dentist prescribed hydrocodone for her pulled wisdom teeth.
“She was in a precarious situation in that any moment this disease could take her,” Earley said. “And it did, when the high was no longer good enough Saige turned to heroin. When she was about to board a plane in New York she overdosed and died in a bathroom stall.”
8News spoke with Maura Eddiani an inmate who pled guilty to walking into a pharmacy and pretending to be a police officer to get painkillers.
“I have struggled with drug addiction in my past,” Eddiani, speaking from jail, said.
The Virginia Beach woman got hooked on opioids after a surgery. Court documents revealed she found it easy to use area dentists to shop for meds to maintain her high.
“It’s been a pretty rocky road for me,” Eddiani said.
8News sat down with Nani Moskal, an adolescent substance abuse clinician, who often leads group therapy at the Family Counseling Center For Recovery in Richmond.
“Somebody who is getting their wisdom teeth removed does not need a 30 day prescription of opioids,” Moskal said.
Moskal said she sees teenagers who started their addiction with a prescription all the time.
“We don’t want people to be in pain but there are other alternatives that are much safer,” Moskal said.
Moskal and Dr. Buxton, a psychiatrist with Pinnacle Treatment Centers like the Family Counseling Center, admit that some doctors are over-prescribing.
“You would think some of those cases could have been handled with ibuprofen or Tylenol or both,” Doctor Martin Buxton said.
Both Dr. Buxton and Moskal say parents should be asking for alternatives.
“One thing they can ask is there any other way we can go with this other than going to an opioid? Can you get us into a faster appointment to see an oral surgeon or see a dentist so we don’t have to stay on these pills for days,” Buxton said.
The psychiatrist also says addiction can be a hereditary illness and family history should kept in mind when visiting any doctor.
“So the best public health service is for families to really look at themselves and see whether or not they have addiction,” Buxton explained. “And children in the that family would be at high risk and should be even more cautiously monitored.”
Moskal advises parents to talk with their kids.
“The more communication you can have with your child, your adolescent, the better,” she explained.
Signs Your Child May Have A Problem:
- They’re suddenly not home.
- Not engaging in family activities.
- Skipping school.
- There’s a sudden drop in grades.
If you notice any of these signs don’t waste time, get your teen into treatment, Moskal said.
“The sooner someone can get treatment. The sooner that they can start to recover.”
Families shouldn’t be embarrassed or afraid to talk about treatment, she added.
“It is like any other disease we need to have support and get rid of the stigma,” Moskal said.
Moskal warns that recovery is a process.
“We know with addiction that one is likely to relapse 7 or 8 times on average,” she explained.
You can find more information about treatment options here. Other resources in the area for help.