When parents abuse opioids, their children are likely to follow in their footsteps
Parents who abuse prescription painkillers may be tempting their children to follow in their footsteps according to recent findings published in the journal Pediatrics.
According to the report, American teenagers were 30% more likely to abuse prescription opioids when one of their parents also misuse the drugs.
The findings are not particularly shocking, as research on other substance use issues like cigarette smoking and alcohol use have long suggested children are more likely to abuse substances when their parents do.
Still, this study is the first to specifically focus on the rates of prescription opioid misuse among children and their parents according to senior researcher Denise Kandel, a professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
It is particularly important to evaluate this link in light of the ongoing opioid crisis. While much of the focus is often given to illegal opiates like heroin, most experts agree that high opioid prescription rates and misuse are directly fueling the epidemic.
Although the abuse rates for teens using prescription opioids has gradually fallen over the past decade according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most recent estimates suggest at least 3% of American high school seniors have abused opioids.
The findings come from a survey of more than 35,000 parent-teenage pairs interviewed between 2004 and 2012.
According to the report, approximately 14% of parents admitted to abusing a prescription opioid in the past. In turn, their children were similarly more likely to report abusing a prescription opioid. Approximately 14% of their children reported abusing an opioid compared to 8% of teenagers whose parents have never misused the class of drugs.
Notably, family drug abuse history was not the only factor linked to increase the opioid abuse risk according to the findings. Kandel’s team also identified a number of other risk factors including marijuana use, depression, or behavioral problems at school.
Nonetheless, the team found that parents’ opioid abuse was linked to a 30% increase in their child’s risk for drug abuse – even when considering other possible factors.
The study did not directly investigate how these children are getting access to illicit opioids. The most obvious possibility would be that the children have easier access when the drugs are present in the home. Another possible issue is that children simply pattern their behaviors after their parents.