WINNING AT ALL COSTS
If you have a child or know a parent with a child involved in sports, you probably already understand how intense nearly every sport has become. In short, winning is never enough; domination is the new form of victory.
Most parents whose kids are in youth sports understand that to be the least bit competitive, the training and play-to-win attitude has to start at a very young age. For example, the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) has children competing as young as four years old. It is also widely noted among parents of child athletes that if a kid hasn’t begun training in a sport before they enter middle school, their competitive prospects against other kids in that same sport are greatly diminished.
Pressure is also learned of early by these kids, and so is injury and pain, as well as the pressure to recover from their injury and pain.
On one hand, yes, if one of our kids is injured in a sporting event, we undoubtedly want them heal as quickly as possible with as little pain as possible. But what are the long-term effects of doctors administering painkillers, i.e. opioids, to our adolescent athletes? Continue reading to find out how you can help your child athlete, if injured in a sporting event, avoid the very real dangers of becoming addicted to painkillers.
THE RUDE TRUTH ABOUT OPIOIDS AND ADOLESCENT SPORTS INJURIES
According to a Baltimore Sun article1, 12 percent of male adolescent athletes and 8 percent of female athletes have been prescribed opioid-based prescription painkillers within the last 12 months. This statistic mirrors the national average for adults who have also been prescribed opioid painkillers.
These painkillers, which are narcotics, include Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. While doctors still determine a medicinal course for young athletes who are either injured or suffer chronic pain from a previous injury, because of the quickly evolving nature of sports, as well as a need to “get back into the game,” narcotic painkillers are asked for, and received, based solely on their ability to work fast.
Abuse of these narcotics can occur quite easily. Roughly a third of adolescents obtain pills from their previous prescriptions, while upwards of 83 percent of young people state their use of narcotic painkillers transpired without adult or parental supervision.
While these narcotics are regarded to be safer and easier to access than street opiates, drugs such as heroin still win out in the end. This is substantiated by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which states 80 percent of painkiller abusers go on to harder, more dangerous drugs like heroin.
QUESTION, QUESTION, AND QUESTION MORE
It can be quite difficult to accept that your child should be put on painkillers after having a sports-related injury. On one hand, we hate to see our kids suffer. Yet, on the other hand, we want them recover as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Should a doctor suggest any sort of painkillers for your child, be sure you understand the effects those drugs will have. Ask how the painkiller will react with your child’s moods, and if so, what sort of behavioral changes can you expect.
Also, find out the long-range complications concerning your child’s painkillers, particularly the propensity for your child to become addicted. Remind both yourself and your doctor that you know the opioid properties of painkillers, and that you are aware of how easy they are to become dependent on.
IF PAINKILLERS ARE ADMINISTERED TO YOUR CHILD…
Carefully note the doctor’s instructions as to how you should administer the painkillers prescribed to your child. This will be based on your child’s age, weight and the severity of their injury and/or recovery. Note the daily dosages your child should receive, and do not, by any means, let your child administer painkillers to themselves.
You should also find out the timeline in which your child should be feeling less pain, and confer with your child’s doctor how or if you should decrease their dosage as they recover. Confirm with the doctor where your child’s pain will be, as well as the symptoms of their pain.
Lastly, as your child advances in their recovery, ask the doctor if there’s an alternative to the painkillers, or at least a less powerful and addicting painkiller that your child could take. In some cases, stronger children bounce back much faster than anticipated, or need less potent pain medicine during their recovery. In other cases, a child’s pain may linger, but with less discomfort, which can require less pain medicine as a whole.
Try to keep in mind that your proactive action is to assure that beyond your child’s recovery from their sports injury, you want them free and clear of any type of addictive opiates, even those prescribed to your child in the first place.
GIVE STRONG PARENTAL ADVICE TO YOUR CHILD
Assure your child that even if it is okay for them to take painkillers now because they’re injured, painkillers can have long-term dangers and implications, particularly addiction. Kids are never too young to know and understand this.
Also encourage them to continue their physical therapy at a slow and gradual pace so as to not re-injure themselves and risk the possibility going back on painkillers. And if your child feels they no longer need their pain medicine and asks if they can stop taking the drug, first confer with their doctor about the viability of weaning them off earlier than expected.
Remember, the sooner your child is off painkillers, the less chance they will have to become addicted.
WHAT TO EXPECT POST RECOVERY, POST PAINKILLER
If your child athlete experiences post-recovery pain, consult their doctor to see if there is any alternative to painkillers. Ask about over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, which would be a Tylenol®-like pain reliever that can be used instead of another slew of opiate-based painkillers.
When your adolescent suffers a sports-related injury, or any injury for that matter, your first objective should be to help them recover; your second should be to ensure their recovery is healthy and addiction free. If prescription drugs are involved in their recovery, make certain you and your child understand the addictive ramifications of their medicine, and how with proper care and diligence, those ramifications can be avoided.
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- Parents should monitor student athletes prescribed opioids for injuries, The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved May 2, 2016.