Children exposed to opioids lead to calls for help every 45 minutes

The researchers found more than almost 190,000 calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers for pediatric exposure to opioids from January 2000 through December 2015.

The study was conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital. Researchers conducted the study using data from the National Poison Data System.

Most American teenagers who abuse opioid drugs first received the drugs from a doctor, a new study finds. These drugs, which work to decrease the perception of pain, are often accompanied by several problematic side-effects, including dependence, sedation, and a strong sense of euphoria.

"Nearly one in four high school seniors in the United States has had some lifetime exposure to prescription opioids, either medically or nonmedically". Among children five or younger exposure occurred at home.

That translates to roughly 11,700 calls per year placed to poison control centers, researchers say.

"When children get exposed to buprenorphine, if mom or dad sees it happening, and they take the pill out of the child's mouth, their child can still go into a come and stop breathing many hours later", Dr. Casavant said. In these cases, the children likely found the drugs while rummaging through the medicine cabinet or other places where the meds are kept.

That reservoir of prescription pills varies for teens of different races, the study found. "Among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, there was a 91 percent increase in fatal poisoning from 2000 to 2009, which was mostly attributable to an increase in prescription drug overdoses", the team wrote. Over the course of the 16-year study period, the researchers observed a 50 percent increase in the rate of prescription-related suicides among teens. Their message to parents is they need to be aware of these trends among teens because 70 percent of teenagers use prescription medication without a physician's order get them from friends or family.

The opioid crisis which has been affecting adults has now filtered down to our children. Doctors say the study highlights the importance of making sure kids don't have access to any medications. However, he also said that he's heard of managed care companies pressuring prescribers to prescribe the less-expensive tablet forms of buprenorphine over the dissolvable strips as way to save money, which could in turn be leading to kids have a greater chance of taking the medication in a life-threatening way.

Nearly half of children exposed to buprenorphine were admitted to a health care facility, the study reported. The doctors in the USA began prescribing the medications more often from 1990s over concerns that patients who were in severe pain were not being helped properly.

"We really have a major problem in this country [with opioid abuse]", said Dr. Marcel Casavant, one of the researchers on the study.

But the one notable exception was buprenorphine, a medication primarily used to treat people for addiction to heroin and other narcotics.

  • Joanne Flowers