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Survey: 1 In 4 Arizona Teens Using Prescription Painkillers Without Doctor Consent

One in four Arizona teenagers admits to using prescription painkillers without a doctor’s consent. That’s according to a new survey by Dignity Health on teen opioid use.

A majority of parents surveyed had talked to their teenage kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but most would still let them take opioids if it’s related to surgery. That’s particularly a concern for student athletes.

Surgeries for sports related injuries have been on the rise in recent years.

Meanwhile, the number of opioid prescriptions for adolescents doubled between 1997 and 2007, says Dr. Javier Cardenas, who's director of the Concussion and Brain Injury Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.  

“There is pressure to return to play and pressure to play through pain, therefore they are more likely to take opioids longer than prescribed and at a higher dose than is prescribed. There’s also an increased risk of recreational use of opioid in the athletic population," he said.

Cardenas says Barrow’s developing an opioid education program — already being piloted by the Tempe Union High School Districts — to educate students, coaches and parents about the risks of addiction. Since mid-June, there have been about 4,000 opioid related overdoses reported to the state. More than 500 have been fatal.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.