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Decline in Accidental Pediatric Opioid Poisoning Seen But Still a Problem

Over the past few years, experts noticed a drop in accidental or intentionally ingesting prescribed painkillers. However, even with the decrease of reported poisoning, the problem is yet to be solved, as it still poses a great threat to children.

An average of 32 calls a day

Recent studies published in Pediatrics on Monday stated that between the months of January 2000 and December 2015, the U.S. poison control centers received thousands of reports. The center received at least 188,000 calls for pediatric opioid exposure.  It means that every day the centers receives a call for pediatric opioid exposure every 45 minutes, that is equivalent to an average of 32 calls a day.

Pediatric cases

From the calls, 59.7% alarmingly involved children less than 5 years old while 29.9% concerned teenagers. 95.8% of the exposures happened at home and 98.4% swallowed the drug.

Pediatric opioid exposures ballooned to 86% from the year 2000 to 2009 but gradually decreased expect for buprenorphine exposure incidents. Buprenorphine or Butrans is a common drug use for the treatment of heroin addiction and other opioids. Almost half of the children expose to the drug eventually lead to hospital admission.

Data gathered from the National Poison Data System revealed that children younger than 20 years old reportedly expose to opioid poisoning. The report also shows that adolescents suspected to intentionally ingest the drugs. Also, within the past years, the numbers grew more than 50% for teenagers.

71.5% of the exposure proved as intentional with 34.2% as suspected suicide, 20.8% for substance abuse and 11.2% for medication misuse. In total 93.8% of the exposures were severe.

The culprit drugs

Hydrocodone poses as the major drug culprit for pediatric opioid poisoning. The US poison control center received 29% calls because of hydrocodone, 18% for oxycodone and 17 percent for codeine.

In a news conference, author of the study, Dr. Gary Smith said, “While overall rates of exposure to opioids among children are going down, they are still too high.” He added there is a need to “examine our prescription practices and to increase education to parents about safe ways to store these medications at home to keep them out of the hands of children.”

Safe storage for medication

Dr. Marcel Casavant conducted a study for factors leading to the overall exposure. In an interview with the Washington Post, Dr. Casavant mentioned about several factors that can lessen the exposure. He said that there should be awareness to safely store medication as well as a monitoring program for drug prescription across the country.

During the interview, he said that  “We are not quite sure, and so it would be good to try to sort out of all the things that we are trying, which ones are the most effective and how can we spend more time doing that.”

Experts suggested that prescribed opioid should be put into individual or single doses packages. Similarly, the medication should also put into blister packs instead of bottles to lessen the possibility of accidental drug overdose. Detox of South Florida encourages everyone that has a prescription to keep them safely in storage under lock and key when available. Keeping our children away from drugs is a huge step in preventing opioid addiction, or worse, death from overdoses.

Dr. Vikram Tarugu MD

Dr. Vikram Tarugu, is a best-in-class, board certified gastroenterologist in South Florida. Specializing in the diagnosis and treatments of gastrointestinal tract conditions. Dr. Tarugu is currently in private practice and has privileges at Raulerson hospital. He is also the CEO of Detox of South Florida. He is routinely rated as one of the best GI doctors and liver doctors in Florida. Patients through out the US have sought his expertise and seek his help when a second opinion is needed with difficult and chronic Gastro intestinal and liver diseases.

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