Cases of Opioid Poisonings Among Toddlers and Teens Up 200 Percent

More than 13,000 Children Poisoned Over Six-Year Period

The number of children being hospitalized because of prescription opioid poisoning has risen sharply since 1997, especially among toddlers and older teenagers, reports The New York Times.

A study analyzing research from the Kids’ Inpatient Database, a national database of pediatric hospitalizations, looked at data gathered every three years from 1997 through 2012. Researchers identified 13,052 instances in which children and teens ages 1 to 19 had been hospitalized for prescription opioid poisonings; 176 of them had died. Among children ages 1 to 4, hospitalizations for opioid poisoning increased by 205 percent. For teens 15 to 19, hospitalizations rose by 161 percent.

Children ages 1 to 4 were primarily hospitalized for accidentally ingesting opioids, while the majority of teens over 15 took the drugs with the intent to commit suicide. Other teenagers probably overdosed when taking the drugs for recreational purposes. The increase in poisonings among toddlers is being credited to parents, or other adults within the household, leaving pills within easy reach of young children.

Poisonings attributed to prescription opioids are now the leading cause of “injury-related mortality” in the United States, largely because of the wider use of the drugs in households nationwide. In 2012, doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers.


Photo: Lynn Friedman Stock pill bottle bedside table via photopin (license)