Youth Mental Health Concerns and Long Term Painkiller use

In a recent study conducted by scientists at St George’s, University of London, and the University of Liverpool, a concerning connection was found between the extended use of painkillers in children and young adults and potential ramifications for youth mental health and addiction in later life. The study, examining anonymous medical records of 853,625 individuals aged from two years old to 24, sheds light on the need to address chronic pain in the younger population while emphasising the risks associated with prolonged painkiller use and youth mental health.

The research focused on a group of 115,101 individuals diagnosed with chronic pain, lasting more than three months. Of this cohort, 20,298 received repeat prescriptions for painkillers without a formal diagnosis and 11,032 were both diagnosed and prescribed painkillers. The study followed these patients for an average of five years after they turned 25.

During the follow-up period, alarming trends emerged around usage, youth mental health and the formation of habits. Researchers noted 11,644 individuals experiencing a “substance misuse event,” 143,838 reporting poor mental health, and 77,337 receiving at least one opioid prescription. Professor Reecha Sofat, Breckenridge Chair of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Liverpool, expressed concern, particularly emphasising the vulnerability of those under 25.

overpresrcibing and youth mental health

The findings highlight the potential unintentional over-reliance on pain medication in adulthood stemming from regular painkiller use during adolescence and young adulthood. Professor Sofat emphasised the need to explore the appropriate time to refer young individuals with chronic pain to specialised pain services for targeted support. Moreover, the study identified an overrepresentation of patients with learning disabilities and autism in the group receiving repeat prescriptions without a chronic pain diagnosis. This suggests potential overprescribing among a vulnerable population, underscoring the importance of cautious prescribing practices.

Dr. Andrew Lambarth, Academic Clinical Fellow in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at St George’s, University of London, emphasised the need to optimise chronic pain management in young people. Balancing effective pain treatment with the avoidance of over-reliance on medications that may lead to dependence in later life is crucial.

As we delve into the intricacies of managing chronic pain in young individuals, it becomes evident that a careful and balanced approach is necessary. This study prompts a critical re-evaluation of pain management practices, emphasising the importance of timely referrals to specialised services and the avoidance of potential overprescribing, particularly among vulnerable populations. It serves as a call to action to optimise chronic pain management strategies for the well-being of our youth, both in the short and long term. It also acts as a reminder that whilst physical pain may be the primary focus, youth mental health concerns also need to be a significant factor when administering any sort of prescription.

The question is, do doctors really care about the medicine they are delivering and the increasing rise in related youth mental health issues medical practices cause?

It depends on where you live in the world, most people in the UK would not hesitate to say the NHS is declining rapidly and serves no one in its current state.

However, apparently in recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on integrating mental health assessments and support into routine medical care. The extent to which mental health is prioritised can vary based on individual healthcare providers, healthcare systems, and regions. Some doctors may place a strong emphasis on mental health, while others may need more training or resources to address mental health issues effectively.

The question is, can our younger generations afford their mental health to be affected while government and decision makers sit on their hands? Answer is, NO.

If you or someone you know is affected by youth mental health issues and feel like you need someone to talk to, I offer a free 15 minute consultation for anyone looking to begin their therapy journey. If you would like to get in touch and find out more about my services, contact me for details.

About The Author

An experienced therapist, Jille Tringham is the owner of Meditate Place and has years of personal and industry expertise. Her unique therapeutic approach can offer long term release and the ability to cope with emotional issues that cause daily setbacks and uncertainty in your life.  Jille Tringham has a number of years experience in human behaviour both in a commercial setting and as a therapist. She provides therapies from her Birmingham base to release you from your day to day challenges, as well as Life Coaching and Career Mentoring because she understands the physical and emotional strains that spill into all areas of life.