While some pain medication may be necessary, it may be possible to treat pain without the use of prescription opioid medication. If your child experiences a sports injury, or is going to have a medical or dental procedure, consider the following approaches to manage the pain without opioids and/or take the medication for as short a duration as possible.
Questions you can ask your child’s healthcare provider:
- Can an over the counter (OTC) pain reliever such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), in combination with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) be just as effective?
- Can we explore alternative treatments such as physical therapy, acupuncture, biofeedback or massage?
- How many pills are being prescribed, and over how long a period?
- Is it necessary to prescribe this quantity of pills?
- What are the risks of misuse?
- Should my child be screened to determine his/her risk of substance use disorder (SUD) before this medication is prescribed? Common risk factors include co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or ADHD, or family history of addiction, a recent trauma such as a death in the family or divorce.
Once your child is prescribed an opioid medication for pain management:
- Communicate regularly with your child about the level of pain he/she is feeling, making sure the pain is diminishing with time and staying alert for any signs of opioid dependence or those indicating misuse of the medication.
- Supervise the dispensing of the medication; counting the pills in the bottle to be sure they are being taken as prescribed. Clearly document when the prescription was filled and when a refill will be needed – and take note of any missing medication.
- Talk with your child about the risks of opioid misuse, and be very clear that the medication is not to be shared with others.
- Safeguard medication at home – i.e., don’t just leave it in the medicine cabinet where anyone, family or visitors, can access it.
- Dispose of unused medication at a local “takeback” event.