Study: More toddlers and preschoolers are overdosing on opioids

In recent years, rates of toddlers and preschoolers hospitalized for opioid overdoses more than doubled, according to a new study.

In fact, overdoses rose more than 100% over a 16-year period among all children, the study published in JAMA Pediatrics Oct. 31 showed.

Researchers from Yale School of Medicine analyzed national data from the Kids’ Inpatient Database on children admitted to U.S. hospitals for opioid poisoning. The study focused on more than 13,000 records from patients ages 1 to 19 between 1997 to 2012.

What's to blame? Possibly the increase of prescribed pain killers, includingOxyContin and Vicodin. Research from 1999 to 2010 show retail sales of prescription opioids quadrupled."Even in children younger than 6 years, opioids, followed closely by benzodiazepines, now account for most of the drug poisonings in this age group; in nearly all these poisonings, the child was exposed to a prescription intended for an adult in the household," the study states.

Young children found a pill on the floor, got into their mother's purse or simply figured out how to open a bottle.

While more current data isn't yet available, study author Julie Gaither said the upward trend is likely to remain a problem among young children.

“It’s a simple message for parents that we can limit so many of these exposures to keep these medications out of these little hands," Gaither said.

She also said companies must improve packaging because young children are finding ways to get into "child-proof" bottles. Lastly, she said there needs to be more conversations about young overdoses in the pediatrics community, a topic that's largely underreported.

Prescription opioids accounted for most poisonings in the Yale study, but heroin poisonings also increased 161%. In August, more than 225 heroin overdoses occured in four counties in four states within one week. The batch of heroin was most-likely supercharged with another substance, but still drew attention to the popularity of the drug.


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