Does parental opioid use and misuse influence teen opioid use?


An investigation examines whether parental prescription opioid use impacts a child’s opioid use and misuse.

The opioid crisis has raised many questions about what leads to the misuse of opioids. Little research has been done into how parental and adolescent prescription use and misuse could be associated. An investigation looks at whether such a link exists.1

Investigators did a cross-sectional, nationally representative study that included parent-adult pairs from the annual 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The data were collected from January 2015 to December 2017. The exposure was parental past 12-month exclusive medical prescription opioid use as well as any misuse and the primary outcome was adolescent past 12-month medical prescription opioid use or any misuse.

The cohort included 15,200 total parent-adolescent pairs made up of 9400 mother-child and 5800 father-child pairs. The children were aged 12 to 17 years and a slight majority were male. When controlled for other factors, parental prescription opioid use was linked with adolescent prescription opioid medical use adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.28; 95% CI, 1.06-1.53) as well as opioid misuse (aOR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.07-2.25), but parental misuse was not associated. Additionally, parental use of prescription stimulant was linked with adolescent medical prescription opioid use (aOR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.02-1.91). Adolescent prescription opioid misuse linked with parent-adolescent conflict (aOR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.05-1.52), adolescent depression (aOR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.26-2.44), and parental marijuana use (aOR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.13-2.99). 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 linked with misuse, but weakly linked to medical use.

The researchers concluded that parental use of prescription opioids was linked to their teenager’s prescription opioid use, but parental misuse was not linked. This means that restricting opioid prescribing for parents is an important public health goal. When parents are given a prescription for opioids, they should be told about the risk of use of the prescription drug on their child. Furthermore, they should be told to mitigate risks. Asking parents about such use should become a part of pediatric practice.


1. Griesler P, Hu M, Wall M, Kandel D. Assessment of prescription opioid medical use and misuse among parents and their adolescent offspring in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(1):e2031073. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.31073

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