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Dignity Health survey: 1 in 4 AZ teens use prescription opioids without doctor's consent

18% of the teens prescribed pain medication in the survey agreed that it is OK to take more than the prescribed dosage if they feel greater pain than usual.

PHOENIX – Opioids have been declared a crisis in Arizona and across the entire country. This week, Dignity Health and the Barrow Neurological Institute released findings of an online survey about how teens address opioids.

The web-based survey sampled 313 teens between 14 and 18 years of age from July 14 through 31 of this year.

One finding: 25 percent of the teenagers in the survey who have been prescribed pain medication admit they have used opioids without a doctor's consent, and 18 percent agreed that it is OK to take more than the prescribed dosage if they felt greater pain than usual.

Javier Cardenas, MD, says part of the problem is the subject not talked about like other issues.

"Eighty-four percent [of families] talk about sexual assault, and 80 percent talk about marijuana use,” he said, citing their study.

But only a little more than half of parents surveyed were addressing prescription drug abuse with their children at the dinner table.

The opioid abuse problem has led to 790 Arizona deaths in 2016 from overdose. That's up 74 percent since 2012, according to the 2016 Arizona Opioid Report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

At this rate, it'll be more than 1,000 by 2019, the study says.

Cardenas told 12 News that teen sports also play a role with the risk of injuries.

"There is pressure to return to play and pressure to play through pain; therefore, they're more likely to take opioids longer than is prescribed and at a higher dose than is prescribed,” he warned.

With so much of the negative side reported, Sandra Indermuhle, MD, medical director of Chandler Regional Medical Center emergency room department wants to clarify there are some medical situations in which opioids are appropriate, such as acute pain like a bone fracture, a surgery or a heart attacks, as well as pain from cancers or other terminal conditions.

But other types of pain, such as back aches, migraines or arthritis may call for NSAIDs or acetaminophen, such as Motrin or Tylenol, respectively.

You could also take the more natural route:

"Non-medication [strategies] such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage [and] yoga," she said.

You want to ask your doctor what the best pain management and treatment strategy is for you.

Both these medical professionals stress education over an all-or-nothing approach to reverse the epidemic, such as eventually banning doctors from prescribing opioids for children under a certain age.

"You don't want to simply eliminate prescribing these medications just because of the issues that are there."

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