Studies shed light on opioid exposures among US children and young adults

Between 2000 and 2015, poison control centers in the United States received 188,468 calls about prescription opioid exposures in children and teens, a new study finds.

That translates to roughly 11,700 calls per year placed to poison control centers, researchers say.

“We knew that we were in the middle of an opioid epidemic across the country – certainly in central Ohio, where we’re located,” said study author Dr. Marcel Casavant, who is chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center in Columbus.

The study sheds light on how opioids – including painkillers like hydrocodone or oxycodone – impact young people, he told Reuters Health.

Casavant said data from the National Poison Data System shows that children age 5 and younger usually came in contact with opioids through “exploratory exposures” – such as when a child sees and eats a pill while crawling around on the floor.

Children ages 6 to 12 were usually the victims of medication errors, for example, when they were given the wrong dose or accidentally given a second dose.

Calls about teenagers and young adults were mostly due to intentional exposures, such as suicide attempts or drug abuse.

The researchers report in the journal Pediatrics online March 20 that opioid exposures among children and adolescents rose about 86 percent between 2000 and 2009 and then fell somewhat between 2009 and 2015.

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