New statewide push encourages parents to ask about about opioid alternatives

DENVER -- When a doctor prescribes a child an opioid for pain, many parents may not think about asking for alternatives.

There is a new effort in Colorado to encourage parents to speak with their kids' doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers about treatment options that avoid highly addictive opioids.

When 16-year-old Hayden Kozlow had her wisdom teeth removed, the nurse offered her a prescription for an opioid painkiller to use after surgery. However, her mother did not want to take it.

“I said, 'We don’t need a painkiller.  We’ll just go with Tylenol.' And she was insistent ,” said DeEtte Kozlow, Hayden’s mother.

The Sedalia family took the prescription, but did not use it.

“We used ice, we used Tylenol,” DeEtte said.  But she wishes there had been more of a conversation about possible alternatives.

“I had a friend pass away in December of 2016 from a heroin overdose. 8o percent of heroin addicts get started with prescription drugs, so it was a big red flag for me,” she said.

Of course, there could be a time when patients want to take the opioids, but experts recommend asking about options.

“It should not be a judgement whether you do or you don’t.  I think the important thing is that there is an active dialogue,” said Kent MacLennan with advocacy groups SpeakNowColorado.org and Rise Above Colorado.

He says parents should educate themselves about the drug their child is prescribed and for how long it is prescribed.

“One thing that we do know is that the developing teenage brain is more susceptible to addiction,” MacLennan said.

He suggests parents go to SpeakNowColorado.org and take a look at the new web page devoted to helping parents talk to their children and their healthcare providers about the risks of prescription medications.

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