Unintentional drug poisoning among children on the rise: study

September 21, 2011

Cincinnati – The number of children requiring treatment in emergency departments as a result of unintentional drug overdose has risen dramatically in recent years, according to a study released Sept. 16 by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The study was based on information gathered between 2001 and 2008 by the National Poison Data System, an electronic database of all calls made to members of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. More than half a million children younger than 5 required emergency department treatment for unintentional overdoses over the course of the study period.

Prescription drug overdoses were the most dangerous, causing 55 percent of emergency department visits, 76 percent of hospital admissions and 71 percent of cases that resulted in significant harm. Overdoses of opioid pain relievers, sedatives and cardiovascular medications were especially high.

The greatest increase was seen in cases of children finding and ingesting medications on their own, rather than dosage errors. Self-ingestion accounted for 95 percent of all poisonings recorded.

The study was published online in the Journal of Pediatrics.