When it comes to opioids, kids are “eating them like candy,” said lead researcher Julie Gaither, a postdoctoral fellow in biostatistics at the Yale School of Medicine. And the problem is only enlarging, CBS News reports.
According to Gaither, one million Americans age 12 and up abuse substances. Gaither and her team analyzed information from children’s hospitals from 1997 to 2012, and the data is shocking. The number of poisonings by kids ages 1-4 has increased by 205 percent over this timespan, and the statistic has risen by 176 percent for teens ages 15-19.
“The opioid crisis affects everyone, and we need to pay better attention to the impact it’s had on children,” Gaither said. “Our study shows they have suffered hard from this epidemic.”
Overall, the number of opioid poisonings have grown by 165 percent for those ages 19 and younger. The use of heroin, specifically, has escalated among adolescents by 161 percent.
So why is the issue so pervasive? Sadly, the answer is simple.
“The only reason opioid poisoning is increasing among children is because opioid prescriptions are increasing among adults,” said Dr. Barbara Pena, research director of the emergency department at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. “Once you mix an adolescent who’s on opioids with depression, you’re mixing two potentially dangerous things.”
Frighteningly, meds that are “toddler-friendly” for young children are going to wind up “in their mouth,” Pena said.
Accidental poisonings among kids ages 10-14 have risen to 82 percent, while suicidal or self-inflicted poisonings have increased by 37 percent for the same age group. For teens ages 15-19, accidental poisonings have surged by a whopping 300 percent, and suicidal or self-inflicted poisonings are up by 140 percent.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the administration of OxyContin for children ages 11-16 in August 2015.
“Some kids have chronic pain from conditions such as lupus or sickle cell disease, but to give a kid with back pain opioids is ridiculous,” Pena said.
The moral of the story? Parents should avoid narcotics where possible, and keep dangerous drugs locked safely away from children. Furthermore, open parent-child discussions on abstaining from drugs may promote healthy choices when those inevitably risky situations arise.
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