One of the most effective weapons against drug addiction is treatment. This can be a combination of medications aimed to eliminate cravings and prevent the addict from feeling the high from opiates, and actual counseling. However, as the opioid crisis continues to move forward, experts are noticing a dangerous trend among teenagers. The number of teenagers who are diagnosed with an opioid addiction is growing, but they are not receiving the same treatment as adults.
A new study set out to examine how young adults (21-25) are treated for their addiction, compared with how teenagers are treated for their addictions to opioids. Researchers gathered information from private insurance companies and found that there was a great disparity among the two groups. For instance, the average age of an addiction diagnosis was at the age of 21, with about 21,000 of the patients studied having this diagnosis. These adults were commonly given either buprenorphine or Naltrexone to help combat their addictions. Comparing these rates to the younger group, researchers began to see a major difference. Of the 16-17 year-olds, only one in ten received any medication for their problem. Patients who were 15 and younger received medication at a rate of 1.4%.
These results highlight a major need to change current prescribing practices that would allow teenagers to get more effective help at handling their addiction before they reach adulthood.
“Changes in policy and clinical practice could help increase utilization of medication-assisted treatment -for youth struggling with opioid use disorders, and should be prioritized,” commented Noa Krawczyk, who works at the U.S. National Institution Drug Abuse’s drug dependence
epidemiology training program at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
The researchers also point out some barriers to getting teenagers opioid addiction medication. Many pediatricians are not as familiar with addiction and the most effective ways to handle withdrawal or cravings. More training and education for these doctors may help teenagers get better treatment. The researchers also warn parents the earlier they notice the warning signs of addictions, the more effective treatment is for the individual.