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Earn credit, gain confidence treating teen patients at risk of opioid misuse

September 20, 2023

Editor’s note: The 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Oct. 20-24 in Washington, D.C. For coverage, visit and follow @AAPNews on Facebook and at

A single counterfeit pain pill robbed high school senior Zachary Didier of his life. The California teen was found dead at his desk in his bedroom on Dec. 27, 2020, and his family has never been the same.

Zach thought he was taking Percocet. The pill actually was fentanyl, one of the most potent opioids, which was stamped to look like Percocet.

Zach’s mother, Laura Didier, uses her grief to raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl poisoning. She says pediatricians and parents need to know that even teens with no history of substance use disorder — like her son — are vulnerable.

“He was a straight-A student. He was a wonderful kid. He starred in the high school musical and was an athlete. I mean, there were no red flags,” Didier said.

She will share her family’s story as part of the session “How Pediatricians Can Confront the National Overdose Crisis: Identifying, Treating, and Preventing Harm from Opioid Use in Adolescents” (C1007) from 8 a.m.-noon EDT Friday, Oct. 20 in room 151A of the convention center.

The course will provide four hours toward the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Medication Access and Training Expansion addiction training requirement. Physicians and practitioners must complete a one-time eight-hour training course before obtaining or renewing their controlled substance license. They need to check a box on their DEA registration form to indicate completion of the training.

Providing care in pediatricians’ offices

More than nine of 10 opioid overdoses are caused by fentanyl, and opioid misuse commonly begins during the pediatric years.

Didier hopes to convey how such overdoses can happen without warning and that pediatricians can help spread the word because they are trusted by patients and families.

“Kids often feel invincible, or they trust that a pill is a medicine and it’s safe,” she said. “They don’t understand that all of the pills out there, outside of the pharmacy, are most likely going to be a counterfeit and potentially deadly.”

“I just so passionately believe that every family has to be having these conversations,” Didier added.

As part of her outreach, Didier occasionally teams up with Scott E. Hadland, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., FAAP, who invited her to present at the AAP course.

When he was training as a pediatrician, Dr. Hadland was troubled to find that so many of his teen patients and their families had to seek addiction care outside of traditional medical settings. He now is chief of the Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine at MassGeneral for Children in Boston.

While substance use often is managed through referrals to drug treatment programs, “… many youth who are dying of fentanyl overdoses currently don’t have a diagnosis of addiction and yet still need counseling on safety and how to prevent overdoses,” Dr. Hadland said. “For youth who do struggle with addiction, providing care in pediatricians’ offices can allow families to receive care under one roof from a trusted provider.

“We want to empower pediatricians to take this work on,” he added, noting that overdose fatalities among teenagers more than doubled from 2019-’21, and overdoses now are the third leading cause of death in adolescents.

“Pediatricians are uniquely positioned to provide adolescents and families with the

information they need to reduce opioid-related risks,” said Sarah Bagley, M.D., FAAP, another presenter, who is chair of the AAP Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Opioids, an addiction specialist and assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

She encourages pediatricians to attend the course “to learn about effective, evidence-based strategies … that can be offered in pediatric health care settings.”

Also presenting is Camille A. Broussard, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and an addiction specialist.

“It’s incumbent on our workforce to do our part to address this national crisis,” Dr. Hadland said. “…This work is incredibly rewarding — and needed now more than ever.”

In addition to the Friday course, the conference also offers the following opportunities to earn credit toward the eight-hour DEA requirement:

  • Section on Nicotine and Tobacco Prevention and Treatment Program (H2008) from 8-11:30 a.m. EDT Saturday at the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C.: 2.75 hours
  • “Keeping Children, Teens and Families Safe From Fentanyl” (S2310) from 9-10 a.m. EDT Saturday in room 202B of the convention center: 1 hour
  • “Tobacco’s Role in Perpetuating Health Disparities” (S3308) from 9-10 a.m. EDT Sunday in room 150B of the convention center: 1 hour
  • “Marijuana and High Potency THC Products: What Pediatricians Need to Know” from 9-10 a.m. EDT Monday in room 207A of the convention center (S4306) and from 5-6 p.m. EDT Monday in room 145 (S4803): 1 hour
  • “Taking the Pain Out of Pain Management” from 2-3 p.m. EDT Monday in room 145 of the convention center (S4501) and from 7:30-8:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday in room 146A (S5101): 1 hour


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