By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com associate editor
February 7, 2019 — Parents are well aware of the risks associated with opioids, including addiction and overdose. Yet many still believe opioids are more effective at relieving pain after surgery than alternative medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) surveyed more than a thousand parents of teenagers and young adults to gauge their knowledge and opinions on the use of opioids for pain management. Although parents acknowledged the risks associated with opioids, they often downplayed the dangers for their children.
“The survey results shed light on the country’s conflicted relationship with and understanding of opioids,” ASA President Linda Mason, MD, stated. “While most parents said they were concerned about side effects and risks, such as addiction, improper or recreational use, and overdose, they still thought opioids work best to manage pain.”
The ASA worked with an independent survey company to quiz 1,007 parents of children ages 13 to 24 about their thoughts on opioids. Two-thirds of the children had never been prescribed an opioid, while one-third had been prescribed an opioid for a broken bone or surgery, including the removal of wisdom teeth.
The majority of parents were concerned about the risks and side effects associated with opioids, yet almost half believed their children were safe from the perils of addiction. Nearly two-thirds of parents also believed opioids more effectively managed pain following surgery than alternatives, despite research that has proved a combination of NSAIDs can manage pain as well as, or even better than, opioid analgesics.
The ASA noted these findings demonstrate a need to better educate parents about opioid risks and alternatives.
“Opioids may not always be the best option,” Dr. Mason stated. “It really depends on the type of surgery and how long they are required. It is, however, important for parents to know that there are many alternatives available that are as — or more — safe and effective for pain management.”