With rates of abuse of opiate pain medications rising along with overdoses, we should be very careful about exposing teens to opiate pain medications. However, a new study indicates that nearly half of all teens who visit their doctor for a headache are prescribed opiate medication.

Teens Routinely Given Opium

According to an observational study of nearly 8400 teens who saw their doctors for newly diagnosed headaches, about half of teens (46%) are prescribed opiates. Of those who were prescribed an opiate, nearly half (48%) were given a second prescription at follow-up, and 29% were given three or more prescriptions for opiates.

Prescriptions for opiates were significantly correlated with the severity of headache. About a quarter of those who were prescribed opiates were diagnosed with a migraine.

However, opiates were not necessarily better at controlling pain, since those prescribed opiates were about twice as likely to visit the ER for a headache (28% vs. 14%).

Ignoring Guidelines for Teen Medications

Current guidelines recommend that doctors not give teens opiates for pain. Opiates are highly addictive and prone to abuse. They are also deadly. Overdose rates in this country have more than tripled since 1990, with prescription drug overdoses accounting for most of the increase. Prescription drug overdoses account for about 55% of all overdoses, and opiate pain relievers account for about 74% of drug deaths.

Most people who abuse prescription drugs either receive them as prescriptions (17%) or free from friends or relatives (55%). Giving teens access to opiate pain medication makes it more likely they will either use them illegally or give them to others.

In South Carolina, our overdose rate is moderate, along with our sales of opiate pain relievers. However, we still need to be watchful to make sure we are not contributing to a growing epidemic.

Drug-Free Headache Treatment

Teens may develop headaches as a result of TMJ. TMJ often develops during teenage years, and studies show that jaw pain in teens can lead to headaches. TMJ treatment offers a drug-free alternative for headache relief, and should be considered in addition to other treatments.

To learn whether TMJ treatment might help your teen’s headache, please call (803) 781-9090 to schedule an appointment with a neuromuscular dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC.