Pain Meds Are Not For Child's Play

Prescription pain reliever misuse or abuse can lead to serious problems

(RxWiki News) There are all sorts of over-the-counter and prescription pain medications available today. Misuse of prescribed opioids can cause serious problems, though - especially when overuse begins in youth.

In a recent study, researchers have uncovered a link between misuse of prescribed pain medications and heroin addiction among people who have a history of using both. There is not much research on this topic, but this study opens a pathway for better targeted preventative measures.

"Closely monitor your children's prescribed pain relievers."

Lead researcher, Stephen Lankenau, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Public Health at Drexel University, found that four out of five injection drug users abused prescription opioids as youngsters before injecting heroin. Usually, heroin addicts turn to opioids after being exposed to heroin or other illicit drugs.

An opioid is a drug that is most commonly prescribed for pain management. It blocks pain receptors so the feeling of pain is reduced or diminished.

They also found that prescribed opioids were the first injected drug used in one out of every four of the participants.

The study included 50 young men and women between the ages of 16 and 25. Most were male who were recruited from New York and Los Angeles. The majority of participants were raised in households where drug and alcohol abuse was common.

Opioid misuse is a major public health concern because it has been linked to other illicit drug dependence and overdose. Therefore, preventative measures should focus on young adults, according to Lankenau.

More research is needed to understand how factors affect the use of injectable drugs to determine better methods of prevention, Lankenau concludes.

The research is published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Review Date: 
July 27, 2011