More children and teens in the US are admitted to hospitals due to opioid poisoning and overdoses, according to a new study published in the journal, Pediatrics. Researchers accounted for accidental poisonings as well as overdoses from intentional use. They found that prescription painkiller were the most common drugs to lead to ICU treatment, followed by heroin, methadone, and other opioid drugs.
Opioid-related hospitalizations were most common among kids aged 12-17 and those aged 1 to 5. The increased rate of hospitalized children is believed to stem from suicide attempts as well as recreational use.
The youngest children would most likely stumble upon their parents’ medications or illicit drugs and use them out of curiosity, according to Dr. Jason Kane, the lead author of the study and an associate paediatrics professor at the University of Chicago and Comer Children’s Hospital.
Kane and his colleagues don’t know the reasons behind the increases, however, Kane speculates that the drugs became more widely available and potent throughout the years.
“Opioids can depress your drive to breathe,” Kane said, “and they also may cause blood pressure to plummet to dangerously low levels.”
The study’s findings were based on data collected from 31 children’s hospitals, roughly 20 percent of US children’s hospitals. Researchers found that opioid-related stays surged from nearly 800 to 1.500 during the study.
A small fraction of the nearly 4.2 million hospitalizations of children during the study involved opioid, however, 43 percent of these hospitalizations required intensive treatment. In addition, annual deaths dropped from nearly 3 percent to just over 1 percent of children hospitalized for opioid reactions.
The research also found that about 20 percent of children under the age of 6 were hospitalized after ingesting methadone, an opioid used to treat addiction.
Dr. Kane urges adult health providers to better educate their patients about the potential dangers to children of having opioid medications in their home and find ways to prevent them from having access to said drugs.
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