March 23, 2017

Every 45 minutes, a child is poisoned by opioids as epidemic grows

21 March 2017, 12:35 | Rodolfo Wallace

Every 45 minutes, a child is poisoned by opioids as epidemic grows

Every 45 minutes, a child is poisoned by opioids as epidemic grows

Almost 12,000 children and teens mistakenly get some sort of opioid drug each year, many of them kids under 5 who find pills by mistake, doctors reported Monday.

Considerably fewer teens reported less illicit drug use - other than marijuana - in the past 12 months than at any time since 1991, according to the report.

In light of this study, researchers are urging for changes to the packaging of prescription opioids.

The centers receive phone calls through the Poison Help Line and record information about the product, route of exposure, individual exposed, exposure scenario and other data.

The researchers during the study found out that since 2009, the United States poison control centres across the country have faced fewer calls about children and teenagers who accidentally overuse the drug or consume it to harm themselves. "When adults bring these medications into their homes, they can become a danger to the children that live there".

Casavant said that the study has also found some alarming data which indicates that the rate of suspected suicide by opioid overdose is rising in teenagers.

"It shows us the drug we know our grownups have been dealing with for awhile has trickled down to our children", said Dr. Marcel Casavant, one of the study's co-authors and chief of the toxicology department at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Addiction to opioids such as codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone has emerged as a serious health problem in America.

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The decline, Casavant said, might mean that doctors are being more careful in prescribing opioids, parents are getting better at keeping the medications out of reach or locked away, and there's improved technology for deterring people from obtaining large amounts of opioids.

But there was an unintended side effect: a sharp rise in painkiller abuse and "diversion" - meaning the drugs increasingly got into the hands of people with no legitimate medical need.

"The folks I would most encourage to get involved are the prescribers, and to do a good job teaching, 'If you got this medicine, it's potentially deadly to children, '" he said.

That averages out to more than 30 calls a day.

More prudent prescribing, to both adults and teens, is one way to address the national opioid problem, both Casavant and Rosen said.

"Most opioid exposures occurred at a residence", the team added. Overall, 175 kids died - 55 percent of whom were teenagers. But in these young children, it's capable of fatalities.

"The epidemic of opioid use disproportionately affects some urban and more rural areas", they write. More than two-thirds of exposures were deliberate; either teens were trying to get high off the drugs, or more disturbingly, trying to kill themselves. For example physicians can prescribe the lowest effective dose of opoids, and supplement that with milder pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Parents can make sure that any leftover pills are discarded.

"Nearly one in four high school seniors in the United States has had some lifetime exposure to prescription opioids, either medically or nonmedically".

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