Parental Opioid Use Linked to Offspring Use

January 8, 2021
Kenny Walter

Adolescent delinquency and perceived classmate drug use were linked to adolescent opioid misuse.

There is not much information available linking parental and adolescent medical prescription opioid use and misuse in the US, but many fear it could be a major unreported issue.

A team, led by Pamela C. Griesler, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, examined the link between parental and adolescent prescription opioid medical use and misuse.

In the cross-sectional, nationally representative study, the investigators identified 15,200 parent-adolescent dyads from the annual 2015-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Exposures in the trial were parental past 12-month exclusive medical prescription opioid use and any misuse. The investigators sought main outcomes of adolescent past 12-month medical prescription opioid use or misuse.

The research team used multivariable regressions of estimated associations between parental and offspring medical prescription opioid use or misuse, controlling for sociodemographic and psychosocial variables.

Opioid Use in Adolescents

Overall, there were 9400 mother-child and 5800 father-child dyads in the same household, with the children aged between 12-17 years old. After controlling for other factors, the investigators found parental medical prescription opioid use was associated with adolescent prescription opioid medical use (aOR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.06-1.53) and misuse (aOR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.07-2.25).

On the other hand, parental opioid misuse was not linked to adolescent prescription medical use and misuse.

The researchers also found parental medical prescription stimulant use was linked with adolescent medical prescription opioid use (aOR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.02-1.91), while parental marijuana use (aOR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.13-2.99), parent-adolescent conflict (aOR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.05-1.52), and adolescent depression (aOR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.26-2.44) were linked with adolescent prescription opioid misuse.

In addition, Adolescent delinquency (aOR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.38-1.74) and perceived schoolmates’ drug use (aOR, 2.87; 95% CI, 1.95-4.23) were associated with adolescent misuse, as well as more weekly with medical use (aORs, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.05-1.22 and aOR, 1.61; 95% CI, 1.32-1.96], respectively).

Future Suggestions

“Youth use of prescription opioids is in part a structural/environmental issue,” the authors wrote. “The findings of this study suggest that parental medical prescription opioid use is associated with offspring prescription opioid use, whereas parental misuse is not.”

Due to the ongoing opioid epidemic, a worthwhile goal of the public health community is to restrict opioid prescriptions to parents, as well as the education to parents on the risk of their prescription opioid use for offspring and on practices to mitigate risk, including safe medication storage and disposal.

The researchers also suggest implementing screening for parental prescription opioid use as part of pediatric practices and addressing adolescent mental health to reduce adolescent prescription opioid misuse.

Past studies have shown parental smoking and alcohol and marijuana use, as well as prescription opioid misuse, is associated with increased use of the same substance by offspring.

However, there is limited information to date about the specific associations between parental and adolescent self-reported medical prescription opioid use and misuse, particularly at the national level.

The study, “Assessment of Prescription Opioid Medical Use and Misuse Among Parents and Their Adolescent Offspring in the US,” was published online in JAMA Network Open.

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