Via Dr. Brian Goldman's CBC Radio blog White Coat, Black Art: How prescription opioids harm little kids. Excerpt:
The opioid crisis has mostly affected teenagers and adults. Now, a new study just published online in the journal Pediatrics finds that pre-schoolers are also at risk.
The study comes from two impeccable sources in the U.S.: the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Researchers analysed records of phone calls to poison control centers across the U.S.
Poison control centers are the places that parents, doctors and nurses call when a child or an adult has swallowed something potentially harmful. They keep records of those calls. Between 2000 and 2015, U.S. Poison Control Centers received 188,000 calls for advice about a child who had been exposed to a prescription opioid.
That works out to 32 calls per day across the U.S., or one every 45 minutes.
Thirty per cent of the calls concerned teenagers. Sixty per cent were children less than 5 years of age. Of the 188,000 reports, just under 30 per cent were for the opioid drug hydrocodone, which is sold under the brand name Vicodin. Hydrocodone pain relievers are not available in Canada. Eighteen per cent of the calls to poison control centers were for oxycodone – which is sold in Canada under brand names such as OxyContin and Percocet. Seventeen per cent of the calls were for the opioid drug codeine, which is found in Tylenol #3.
Young kids under the age of five weren't trying to get high or harm themselves. These exposures were described as accidental in that they happened to curious kids who found the drugs by exploring the medicine cabinet or other location where the drugs were stored.
Among teens, more than two thirds were intentional exposures by teens trying to get high or to harm themselves. This is circumstantial evidence, but during the 16-year period of the study, there was a 50 per cent increase in the rate of suspected suicides linked to prescription opioid pain relievers.
The consequences depended on the age of those exposed to opioids. Although some preschoolers required medical attention, none had serious outcomes. Compared to the younger kids, the teens were more likely to require hospitalisation.