A poll from the University of Michigan finds that most parents aren't very concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medicines by children and teens.


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Poll: Many parents not too concerned about painkiller misuse

January 23rd, 2013

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A poll from the University of Michigan finds that most parents aren't very concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medicines by children and teens.

According to the latest University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 35% of parents said they are very concerned about misuse of narcotic painkillers by children and teens in their communities. Just 19% of parents said they are very concerned about misuse of pain medicines in their own families.

Black parents (38%) and Hispanic parents (26%) are more likely than white parents (13%) to be very concerned about misuse of narcotic pain medicines in their families, the survey indicates.

The poll also shows that prescription pain medications are common in U.S. households with children. Of parents surveyed, 35% said that in the last five years they had received at least one painkiller prescription for their children; more than half of those prescriptions were for a narcotic pain medicine. Also, 66% had received at least one pain medicine prescription for themselves or another adult in the household.

These findings come amid rising rates of abuse and overdose of narcotic painkillers across all age groups, the University of Michigan noted. National data show that the number of drug overdose deaths from narcotic pain medicines is more than overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. Yet half of the parents polled indicate that they don't favor a requirement that they return unused pain medicine to the doctor or pharmacy. Only 41% said they favor a policy that would require a doctor's visit to obtain a refill on narcotic pain medicines.

"Recent estimates are that one in four high school seniors have ever used a narcotic pain medicine. However, parents may downplay the risks of narcotic pain medicine because they are prescribed by a doctor," stated Sarah Clark, associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) unit at the University of Michigan and associate director of the National Poll on Children's Health.

"However, people who misuse narcotic pain medicine are often using drugs prescribed to themselves, a friend or a relative. That 'safe' prescription may serve as a readily accessible supply of potentially lethal drugs for children or teens," Clark pointed out.

Still, some policies to prevent misuse drew support from parents, the survey reveals. Sixty-six percent strongly supported requiring parents to show identification when picking up narcotic pain medicine for their children, and 57% strongly supported policies blocking narcotic painkiller prescriptions from more than one doctor.

"This is a national problem and a growing problem," Clark added. "The results of this poll are a signal that parents may not be aware of the significant rates of misuse of narcotic pain medicine, which highlights the tremendous challenge of addressing this national problem."

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