13 Percent of Adults Say it is OK for Teenagers to Occasionally Use Prescribed Painkillers
Wernersville, PA (September 13, 2017) Would you share a marijuana joint with your son or daughter if they were 18 or older? In a recent national survey, at least one-quarter of parents (26%) find it acceptable, even though marijuana is classified by the Federal Government as a dangerous Schedule I drug, on par with heroin. The online survey was commissioned by Caron Treatment Centers, a leading not-for-profit lifesaving addiction and behavioral healthcare provider with nearly 60 years in the field, and conducted by a Harris Poll among 2,184 U.S. adults, among which 692 are parents of children 6-25 years old (referred to as “parents”).
“Parents are more comfortable smoking marijuana with their young adult children than smoking a cigarette,” said Dr. Joseph Garbely, Caron’s Medical Director. "Many people don't realize that marijuana today is radically more potent than it was years ago and can have a significant impact on the developing brain. Parents who didn't experience consequences from prior use may not be aware of the difference. That creates misperceptions and a dangerously permissive message to their children."
The survey revealed that approximately 13 percent of adults say it’s OK for teenagers to occasionally use prescribed painkillers, despite that opioids, even when used as prescribed can cause significant, permanent changes to the developing brain. This finding raises significant concerns – especially as the United States grapples with a raging opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of five of those addicted to heroin first used prescription painkillers.
“Parents may also be misinformed about the safety of prescription painkillers – even when prescribed by a physician,” continued Garbely.
According to the survey, marijuana is also generally viewed as less risky than alcohol, especially among younger people. While both substances are largely viewed as addictive (87 percent for alcohol versus 63 percent for marijuana) and having a negative impact on someone’s brain and health, far more people recognize the harm associated with alcohol than with marijuana (88 percent versus 71 percent for a negative impact on the brain, and 89 percent versus 59 percent for a negative impact on health). Adults are also almost eight times more likely to feel that marijuana, not alcohol, is a safe alternative to prescription pain medication (45 percent for marijuana versus 6 percent for alcohol). Many adults (39 percent) also feel it is okay for someone to use marijuana recreationally, even if it was originally prescribed medicinally. Among 18-34-year-olds, 73% say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, compared to 53% of adults ages 65 plus.
On a positive note, most parents say it’s important to talk to their children about prescription painkillers (77 percent for 18 to 25-year-olds; 74 percent for 13 to 17-year-olds). However, it highlights the need for greater awareness because many parents don’t recognize the need to speak with their children about prescription painkillers on par with other substances. The survey speaks to the behaviors that parents agreed are important to discuss such as alcohol (84 percent ages 18-25 and 94 percent ages 13-17), illegally obtained drugs (86 and 90 percent), or safe sex (86 and 89 percent).
“We’re encouraged that most Americans recognize the importance of dialogue with their children, but parents need to be having conversations about the dangers of marijuana,” said Tammy Granger, Caron’s Vice President of Education. “Marijuana can be extremely detrimental to adolescent brain development, which is why Caron Treatment Centers believes recreational marijuana use should remain illegal for those under 25.”
The Myths and Stigma Surrounding Addiction Persist
The survey also highlighted dangerous gaps in the public’s knowledge of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. Many myths about the dangers and stigma around addiction persist, creating roadblocks to recovery:
- Two-thirds of adults (66%) believe addiction can be “cured.” Despite the American Medical Association recognizing addiction as a chronic disease that can be successfully managed, many adults perceive addiction as curable.
- Nearly one in five adults (18%) think recovery is hopeless if there is a relapse after treatment. Like other chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes, addiction can be marked by periods of relapse and remission. Therefore, relapses may be common during treatment and recovery. These relapses require re-engagement in treatment that can be successfully managed. At Caron, patients who re-engage in treatment report high levels of post-relapse sobriety and an improved quality of life.
- Fewer than half of adults (43%) know excessive alcohol use can lead to increased risk of dementia, and 64 percent did not realize it can lead to increased risk of cancer.
- The stigma of addiction persists. Many adults report they’d be very or somewhat uncomfortable around someone they knew who was two or more years into recovery, and sober. This is especially true of trusted relationships: A son or daughter’s fiancé (50 percent of parents), a primary care physician (47 percent of total adults), or a child’s teacher (43 percent of parents).
- People underestimate the significant impact of marijuana on brain development in young adults. Nearly two in five adults (39 percent) think marijuana is safe for people ages 18 to 25 to use in moderation, while 11 percent think it is safe for teenagers (ages 13 to 17) to use occasionally. This, even though approximately 90 percent of Caron’s adolescent and young adult patients report that marijuana is their drug of choice. Parents are far more aware of the risks of brain injury in sports such as football and soccer.
- 12 percent of adults say it is unlikely for an adult to develop an addiction to painkillers prescribed by a physician for a legitimate medical need. Research shows that sometimes, all it takes is that first opioid prescription from a doctor or a dentist for pain relief after minor medical treatment to trigger an addiction.
- More than half of respondents (55 percent) think an addict would not be able to perform well at work. However, many people struggling with addiction are high-functioning, even high-performing, and masters at hiding their problem.
- More than eight in 10 adults (83 percent) say they trust their doctor has enough training and experience to correctly identify and diagnose addiction. In fact, doctors typically receive minimal training (less than one day) about addiction during medical school and, until recently, did not receive much training on how to prescribe opioids. When it comes to addiction, it often takes a multidisciplinary team five days to correctly diagnose an addiction, identify the root cause of the behavior, and establish an appropriate course of treatment.
- Nearly 1 in 4 adults (24 percent) believe that those recovering from heroin addiction can safely use marijuana in moderation. Recent news reports and legislative initiatives have perpetuated this myth. However, there is no medical research that supports the use of marijuana to treat heroin addiction. In fact, use of marijuana can often trigger a relapse for those with addictions to other substances, and those with a history of addictive behaviors may even have difficulty with marijuana itself.
About the Survey
The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Caron Treatment Centers between April 26 and April 28, 2017 among 2,184 adults ages 18+, among which 692 are parents of children between six and 25 years old. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of U.S. adults. Since the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Poll panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
About Caron Treatment Centers
With 60 years in the field, Caron Treatment Centers operates lifesaving addiction and behavioral healthcare treatment. Caron is headquartered in Wernersville, Pennsylvania with Ocean Drive and Caron Renaissance located in Palm Beach County, Florida. Caron has Recovery Centers in New England, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which offer community and recovery support. Caron’s Recovery Centers in Atlanta and New York City also offer pre- and post-treatment services. Caron has the most extensive continuum of care including adolescents, young adults, mid-life adults, older adults, chronic pain, executives, healthcare professionals and legal professionals. Caron’s treatment is customized to meet the needs of individuals and families – with highly trained teams prepared to address co-occurring disorders. Caron offers an innovative approach to ongoing recovery care support for its former patients and their families with online peer groups and other resources during the first year of transition following discharge. For more information on Caron, please visit Caron at www.caron.org or follow us on Twitter.
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