The pain of a migraine that won’t go away can drive some people, including teens, to the emergency room.
It’s expected that intense pain killers, such as the opiate Vicodan, may be used in severe cases where no other medications are working. But you wouldn’t expect children ages 13-17 to be receiving an actual prescription for opioids, which are known for their addictive qualities.
Yet a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health has suggested that many teens are receiving one or more opiate prescriptions to treat headaches.
The study looked at medical claims of 8, 373 teens with headaches, and found that 46 percent of them received a prescription for opioids. During follow-up visits, 48 percent received one opioid prescription, and 29 percent received three or more prescriptions.
The study also found that when teens visited the emergency room they were the most likely to get an opioid prescription.
The study does however have its limitations. The data is limited in its information, and didn’t allow researchers to identify whether or not opioids were solely prescribed for headaches, or whether the opioids were given as a first treatment option, or after lack of relief with other less strong medications.
Dr. Jack Chapman, the medical director at US Pain Centers, said in an email that a final conclusion can’t be reached without a doubt based on this most recent study on teen opioid prescriptions. But he believes there needs to be more of an effort made to understand the role and function of the emergency room in pain relief situations.
He said if patients are suffering from acute pain, then medications made specifically for migraines might not always help, so it’s not so surprising that in the emergency room opioids are prescribed more often.
“However, opioids, while effective in relieving pain, are not effective for treating migraine,” Chapman said. “Although it might be easier and more convenient to consider a little pill, the effects of addiction can be devastating.”