Doctors May Now Prescribe OxyContin to Children as Young as 11

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it will allow the use of the powerful painkiller, OxyContin, in children as young as 11, who suffer from severe, chronic pain. OxyContin is an opioid that has previously only been used to treat pain in adults.

OxyContin is commonly associated with substance abuse. In order to protect patients, the FDA required the producer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, to conduct a study to determine safe procedures when treating children with the drug. As a result of the study, doctors are directed to only prescribe OxyContin to patients who can already tolerate a dose of 20 milligrams of the drug’s active ingredient oxycodone.

The FDA will also require Purdue Pharma to conduct a follow-up study to analyze rates of injury, overdose and other drug related complications in patients ages 11–17.

To further quell substance abuse while taking OxyContin, Purdue Pharma has reformulated the drug to discourage injecting, snorting or other improper uses.

The FDA has stated that the same warnings apply to minors taking OxyContin as to adults. Patients should never be prescribed the drug while taking other drugs that cause drowsiness or sedation. Doing so may cause difficulty breathing.

Before the change in policy, the only opioid based treatment for long term pain in children was the Duragesic patch, which releases fentanyl.

Critics of the use of opioid based medications cite data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that the substance causes three out of four prescription drug deaths in the United States. Despite efforts by pharmaceutical companies to reduce substance abuse, opioids are highly addictive.

Signs of addiction to opioid based medications, such as OxyContin, include cravings, compulsive thoughts about taking the next dose, anxiety and depression. Children who are prescribed OxyContin should do so under the careful watch of doctors, parents and caretakers.

There is also speculation that long term use of OxyContin may cause a reverse effect, known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia, where pain that was originally localized spreads throughout the body, spurring further dependence on opioids to treat pain and potential substance abuse if not treated correctly.

While there is little doubt surrounding the benefits of taking opioid based medications, such as OxyContin to treat long term pain, it’s application to children is still unproven. Doctors should take care when prescribing it, and should only do so in extreme cases. Parents and caretakers should also be vigilant in monitoring children taking OxyContin, as addiction to opioids can be extremely dangerous and sometimes fatal.

Drew Scholl is a health writer for Fusion 360, an SEO and content marketing agency. Information provided by Odyssey House. Follow on Twitter.

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