The children are being given an average of 48 doses of opioids after a tonsillectomy, say researchers at the University of Michigan, who reviewed case records of 15,793 children who had the operation in a private clinic.
Around 60 per cent of the children, who were aged between one and 18, were given opioids because the painkillers are thought to reduce post-surgery complications, but the researchers say there is no evidence the drugs are any more protective than standard NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen.
Constipation was a more likely result of taking the opioids, the researchers found, and, in one case, the child became addicted to them.
On average, each child was given 48 opioids for an eight-day prescription, which is far more than the child would need, the researchers say. This over-prescribing could put the health of family and friends at risk if they take the unused pills.