There’s Been an Alarming Increase in Children Ingesting Opioids

Keep all opioid medications locked away from children.

That’s the recommendation after a new study out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital shows a disturbing rise in children ingesting opioids. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin as well as popular pain relievers available by prescription like OxyContin, Vicodin and codeine.

And these drugs can be extremely dangerous for young children. According to Gary Smith, a senior author of the study, “These medications can have profound effects on the brain, cause coma, stop breathing and, unfortunately in some cases, be fatal.” Poison-control centers in the United States receive 32 calls a day about kids exposed to these kinds of drugs.

More: Opioid Poisoning: What Parents Need to Know

In the study, researchers analyzed calls to poison-control centers from 2000 to 2015. Overall exposures to opioids in kids skyrocketed 86 percent during the first 10 years. There were nearly 190,000 prescription opioid exposures among children under the age of 20.

After 2009, exposures did decrease by 32 percent (which is obviously good) but there was a new disturbing trend. In the last three years of the study, children’s exposure to the narcotic buprenorphine (which treats pain as well as addiction to pain relievers) jumped. And most of the kids affected were under the age of 6.

So how do we prevent this? Researchers would like prescription opioids to come in more difficult-to-open packaging — like “single-dose packaging instead of loosely filled pills in a prescription bottle.” And in addition to keeping medication far from the reach of children, they recommend all parents keep the number for poison control on hand.

That’s 1-800-222-1222. Put it your cellphone. Like, right now.

More: The 4 deadliest drugs teens are taking


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