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Opioid Prescription Rates Remain High for Teens, Young Adults


The Opioid Epidemic has had a far-reaching impact on families nationwide, and especially so in Ohio and the mid-west. Though pending lawsuits filed by cities and states across the country show Big Pharma’s time of reckoning may soon come, the need to correct poor prescribing practices that helped fuel the crisis remains.

According to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, health care providers in the U.S. are still prescribing opioids to younger Americans at alarmingly high rates.

Here are a few details about the research:

  • The study used 11 years of data (2005-2015) from the CDC and its National Health Center for Health Statistics to gauge opioid prescription rates among patients ages 13 and 22.
  • Researchers found that over the study period, more than 78,000 visits to an ER or outpatient clinic resulted in an opioid prescription for a teen or young adult.
  • Roughly 15% of ER visits and 3% of visits to outpatient facilities resulted in an opioid painkiller prescription.
  • While opioid prescription rates in ERs fell by 4% between 2005 and 2015, they did not significantly change in outpatient centers.

Researchers behind the study say rates of opioid prescriptions written for teens and those in their early twenties were both consistent and shockingly high over the years, though it’s possible they have since declined since 2015, the last year of data included in the study. Still, the numbers offers insight into where these prescriptions are most likely to come from:

  • Dental Visits – Teens seeking treatment for dental disorders were prescribed opioids in 60% of cases, and young adults in 58% of cases, making dental visits the leading source of painkiller prescriptions for these age groups.
  • Fractures – Collarbone fractures (47% of cases) and ankle fractures (38%) were next leading conditions in terms of prescriptions for teens
  • Neck & Back Injuries – Following dental disorders, the next leading conditions resulting in opioid prescriptions were low back pain (38%) and neck sprains (35%),

Take-Always: Accountability & Better Guidelines Needed

Though the numbers bear some similarities to what’s happening in adult ERs and outpatient visits, they’re a particular concern for teens and young adults. Not only are these age groups more likely to abuse synthetic painkiller medications, according to the Department of Human Health Services, they’re also at greater risk for long-term abuse, addiction, and overdose – of which there were more than 42,000 in 2016 alone.

The realities of Big Pharma’s aggressive marketing tactics and focus on profits over people have become all too clear with growing research, but those problems are compounded by medical professionals who overprescribe or fail to adequately meet their duty of care when prescribing opioid medications to young adults (or young mothers) without properly discussing risks, prioritizing minimum doses, and duration – or exploring other reasonable, safer alternatives.

While the problems of America’s opioid crisis may be pervasive and profound, researchers say parents should see statistics as motivation to step in and speak with providers about these medications and whether they’re necessary for their children. Most importantly, they say the study reiterates the need for specific prescribing guidelines and recommendations among providers – which exist nationally for adults, but are lacking for adolescents.

Opioid Litigation, Medical Malpractice & Legal Claims

Today, the pharmaceutical industry is facing an onslaught of major lawsuits filed by attorneys general and other groups across the nation. Though opioid litigation will potentially hold drug makers accountable for unscrupulous tactics, there are still valid claims and legitimate reason to hold negligent doctors and medical professionals responsible as well.

The Becker Law Firm has handled many medical malpractice cases against physicians who have overprescribed these addictive, dangerous medications to patients who have died from accidental overdose.     

Our firm is known nationally for our work in complex civil injury cases – and particularly in cases involving medical malpractice, medication errors, and birth injuries. If you have questions about your rights and options, call (440) 252-4399 to speak with a lawyer.

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