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Prescription opioid poisonings nearly double among children, older teens: study

November 2, 2016

New Haven, CT – The rate of children hospitalized for prescription opioid poisonings nearly doubled between 1997 and 2012, according to a recent study from the Yale University School of Medicine.

Prescription opioids include painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

Researchers analyzed more than 13,000 hospital discharge records from the Kids’ Inpatient Database, which compiles data on children admitted to U.S. hospitals. They found the age groups most affected by prescription opioid poisoning were children between 1 to 4 and teens 15 to 19. Although unintentional poisonings were most common among the younger children, teens were more likely to take prescription opioids with the intention of committing suicide.

“The take-home message is that prescription opioid poisonings are likely to remain a growing problem among children unless greater attention is directed toward the pediatric community,” Julie Gaither, lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Educating parents is important to help reverse the trend and protect children from poisonings, the researchers said. Other strategies include changes to the packaging and storing of prescription opioids, clinical practice guidelines for prescribing opioids to children and teens, and programs targeted at preventing opioid misuse among young adults.

The study was published Oct. 31 in JAMA Pediatrics.

According to the National Safety Council, 52 people die each day from opioid abuse.