Teens Likely to Get Opioid Rx for Headaches

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Monday, March 10, 2014

Teens Likely to Get Opioid Rx for Headaches

Nearly half of teens who visit a doctor complaining of headache pain walk away with a prescription for a narcotic painkiller, researchers found.

And teens who sought headache treatment at an emergency department were twice as likely to get an opioid for their headache as those who saw a doctor in a different setting.

Forty-six percent received one prescription for an opioid; 23% got two prescriptions and 29% got three or more prescriptions.

Opioids were go-to drugs for teen headache even though evidence-based guidelines do not recommend them for first-line treatment.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health analyzed medical claims and pharmacy data from 8,373, 13- to 17-year-olds who visited a clinician for headache, which is a common ailment in adolescents.

The study was done by health benefits company, WellPoint, and its research subsidiary, HealthCore in conjunction with the the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Neurology.

"There is cause for concern," said co-author Alan Rosenberg, MD, WellPoint's vice president for medical policy. "The general impression was that opioid prescriptions for this population would be low. When the results were obtained, we all felt it important to share this information with physicians and build awareness of the issue."

Opioids should only be used as rescue therapy for acute migraine in specific situations, when other drugs don't work, said Robert Glatter, MD, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. "This is a dangerous pattern of practice, and should be highly discouraged," Glatter said.

Source: Medpage Today