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Let’s talk about opioid risk

How to start conversations with kids and your doctor about the risks of prescription opioids

Talking with a child or teenager

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids publishes a helpful Parent Talk Kit full of age-appropriate scenarios — from a pre-schooler asking about vitamins to a teenager coming home smelling of alcohol or tobacco — and companion scripts that parents can use to guide these serious and sometimes thorny conversations. The kit includes some scenarios specific to prescription drugs as well.

Even young children can learn about the basics of safety and risk when it comes to prescription drugs. The Ohio State College of Pharmacy produced a Brutus Buckeye-starring activity and storybook called “Adventures in Pharmacy.” Generation Rx also has a few interactive games for children to try. (The Is It Candy or Medicine game is pretty eye opening.)

Generation Rx produces a slew of materials aimed at teenagers, though most are tailored for groups in classroom or meeting settings. The organization recommends a number of outside resources, including a National Council on Patient Information and Education page that’s rich with statistics and advice for parents.

Talking with your doctor

Generation Rx developed a set of questions — helpfully organized by the acronym RESPECT — that you should ask your doctor if you are being prescribed an opioid.

  • Reason: Why is this medication being prescribed for me?
  • Explain usage: Should I take this medication regularly or as needed? What restrictions are there with food, alcohol and other medications?
  • Symptoms: When is it appropriate for me to take this medication (for example, on a scale of 1-10 for pain severity)?
  • Practitioners: Inform your doctor if you are seeing other health care providers and which pharmacy you use. (You should use only one pharmacy.)
  • Expected effects: What effects can I expect from taking this medication? What precautions do I need to take while driving, operating machinery, etc.?
  • Concerns with controlled substances: Is there addiction potential with my medication?
  • Time to stop: When and how should I stop taking my medication? How should I store and dispose of it when I am done?