SATURDAY, Jan. 26, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Many American parents are not very concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medicines by children and teens, despite the fact that rates of abuse and overdoses involving these drugs are rising in all age groups, a new survey finds.
The number of drug overdose deaths attributed to narcotic pain medicines such as Vicodin or Oxycontin is greater than overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined, according to national data.
The survey, conducted last September, included over 1,300 parents with children aged 5 to 17. Among the participants, the investigators found that only 35 percent of parents were very concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medicines by children and teens in their communities, and only 19 percent were very concerned about the misuse of these medicines in their own families.
Black parents (38 percent) and Hispanic parents (26 percent) were more likely than white parents (13 percent) to be very concerned about the misuse of narcotic pain medicines in their own families, even though use of the medicines has been shown to be three times higher among white teens than black or Hispanic teens, according to the results of the University of Michigan Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
The survey also found lukewarm support among parents for some policies that would discourage the abuse of narcotic pain medicines. Only 41 percent of parents said they favor a policy that would require a doctor's visit to obtain a refill on these medicines, and about half do not favor a requirement that unused pain medicine be returned to a doctor or pharmacy.
There was stronger support for other policies. For example, 66 percent of survey respondents strongly supported requiring parents to show identification when picking up narcotic pain medicine for their children, and 57 percent strongly supported policies blocking narcotic pain medicine prescriptions from more than one doctor.
"Recent estimates are that one in four high school seniors have ever used a narcotic pain medicine. However, parents may downplay the risks of narcotic pain medicine because they are prescribed by a doctor," Sarah Clark, associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and associate director of the National Poll on Children's Health, said in a university news release.
"However, people who misuse narcotic pain medicine are often using drugs prescribed to themselves, a friend or a relative. That 'safe' prescription may serve as a readily accessible supply of potentially lethal drugs for children or teens," Clark noted.
The findings suggest that Americans may not recognize the seriousness of the issue.
"This is a national problem and a growing problem. The results of this poll are a signal that parents may not be aware of the significant rates of misuse of narcotic pain medicine, which highlights the tremendous challenge of addressing this national problem," Clark said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about prescription pain drug abuse.