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Opioid Overdose Among Children Nearly Doubles

The number of children admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled since 2004, according to a new study.

The study, which was published Monday, March 5, 2018 in the journal Pediatrics, looked at children between ages 1 and 17 who were admitted to hospitals and pediatric intensive care units with opioid-related diagnoses from 2004 to 2015. Researchers found that the number of children admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose nearly doubled to 1,504 patients between 2012 and 2015, up from 797 patients between 2004 and 2007.

The researchers cautioned that many of these children likely overdosed after stumbling upon their parents' prescription medications.

"When they come in, they're going to fall into one of two categories: either they're teenagers with intentional or drug-seeking behavior because of recreational or self-injurious behavior, or they're younger kids who got into their parents' medication," said Dr. Jason Kane, an associate professor of pediatrics and critical care at Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago and a lead author on the study.

The study separated children based on three age groups: 1-5 years, 6-11 years and 12-17 years. The oldest children -- those between the ages of 12 and 17 -- accounted for over 60% of the patients admitted for opioid overdose. 

Children between the ages of 1 and 5 years were the second most-likely to be admitted for opioid overdose, accounting for over one-third of cases. The vast majority were likely the result of accidental consumption of medications such as methadone and oxycodone that had been prescribed to the children's parents, according to Dr. Kane.

Experts caution parents taking prescription or non-prescription opioids to take preventative measures so that their pills don't wind up in the wrong hands.

"I think there needs to be a stronger emphasis to the adults receiving these drugs -- these prescription medications -- about the consequences that may happen to their families as a result of those drugs being in their homes," Dr. Kane said.  "These medications may cause side-effects to you, but more importantly, if your young children get into them, they may be harmed, require hospital care, require the ICU, or in rare cases even die from that ingestion," he added.

Dr. Rajesh Daftary, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, said, "I counsel parents especially to make sure that, if these substances are at home, to have them in a locked space," Daftary said. "And if they are expired or not being used anymore, take them to a pharmacy or a facility that can dispose of them."

Read the full story here, published March 5, 2018, by CNN. 

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