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How pushing back against painkiller prescriptions can help fight the opioid crisis

Posted at 7:25 AM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 10:25:27-04

The opioid crisis has stolen the lives of thousands of those susceptible to addiction. But medical experts say that the crisis can be stemmed if parents take a stand when it comes to painkiller prescriptions.

Hayden Kozlow can still remember the moments before this, the surgery to get her wisdom teeth removed.

"I hate needles," Hayden Kozlow said. "I hate like getting surgeries and things like that so I was super nervous and really scared."

But her mom, DeEtte Kozlow, says for her, the most nerve-wracking part of it all happened with Hayden's nurse, before procedure began.

"As she was walking us through everything she said you know before it's all said and done I'll get Hayden's script for a painkiller," DeEtte Kozlow remembers. "And I said, 'Oh that won't be necessary. We don't need a painkiller.' And she said, 'Oh, you have to have a painkiller.'"

Deette Kozlow says she felt obligated to take the opioid prescription, despite her reservations.

"Well, the opioid epidemic has touched us personally," Kozlow said. "And in December of 2016 we lost a very dear friend."

But her biggest concern? Her daughter's age.

"I kind of panicked for a minute because she is 17," DeEtte Kozlow says.

Research shows that for those who start using drugs or alcohol before the age of 18, there is a one-in-four chance of future addictions. For those who start using after the age of 21, that number falls to one-in-25.

"When you think about the developing teen brain, that brain is much more susceptible to addiction than an adult, fully-developed brain," said Ken MacLellan with Speak Now, a group that urges parents to talk with their children about drugs and alcohol. "So that's why we see that 90 percent of addictions start in teenage years because of all that brain development processes happening during adolescence."

Speak Now is also working to urge parents to talk with their children's doctors, dentist and other health care providers about alternatives to prescribing highly addictive opioids and other pain relievers for their children.

"You don't have to fill that prescription, and you don't have to provide the drugs to your youth if you can figure out a different pain treatment plan," MacLellan said. "If so, there are alternatives."

DeEtte Kozlow decided to treat Hayden with Tylenol, and she made a full recovery. Now, DeEtte has this advice for parents.

"Educate themselves," Kozlow said. "To talk to their doctors ahead of time ask for alternative medications other things that can be used other naturopathic things."