Doctors Assess Link Between Parents, Children in Opioid Misuse

Serious doctor warns father and teenage girl against opioid misuse

Can parents’ behaviors have tangible effects on their children’s future habits?

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll no doubt recall the anti-drug commercials of the 1980s and 1990s where a parent, demanding to know the origins of his son’s marijuana stash, is taken aback when the youth loudly proclaims, “I learned it by watching you!”

The father recoils, as a voiceover reminds us, “Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.”

Obviously today’s society has taken a different tact towards familial issues, particularly those surrounding drug use. But does the behavior of a parent carry over to their offspring in the case of more serious drug-related matters, such as the ongoing opioid epidemic in our country?

The answer is complicated, following a study that examined over 15,000 parent/child units and concluded that while parental medical prescription opioid use within the past year was associated with adolescent medical prescription opioid use and misuse, parental misuse was not.

Put another way, the mere usage of prescription opioids is associated with adolescent use and misuse, but misuse by the parental figures is not associated closely with the adolescent’s potential usage.

Confused? The researchers attempt to break it down accordingly:

“The findings suggest several targets for preventing adolescent prescription opioid misuse,” corresponding author Denise B. Kandel, PhD, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute writes.

“Reducing the availability of prescription opioids in the household and potential for diversion is essential. Strategies could include limiting opioid prescribing to parents, patient educational programs emphasizing the risks of parental opioid medications to their children, and guidelines for medication use practices, including safe storage and disposal, the use of lock boxes, and collection of leftover medications.”

The study does suggest that structural and environmental factors are contributing factors, and that preventative measures should target adolescent mental health with a specific focus toward depression.

SOURCE: JAMA Network Open

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