Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Medicine | By Megan Pierce

Study Sheds Light On Opioid Use Among Children

Study Sheds Light On Opioid Use Among Children

Teenagers, though, usually ingested the medicines intentionally. "Buprenorphine, in particular, had a significant increase in exposures to young children", says Dr. Marcel Casavant from Nationwide Children's Hospital. He said that the data also suggests that a growing number of teens in the United States may be suicidal and have easy access to opioid doses which can threaten their lives.

Researchers looked at trends in the use of prescription opioids among USA adolescents from 1976 to 2015.

The drugs include oxycodone (OxyContin) and oxycodone plus acetaminophen (Percocet).

Nationwide, sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "So if you were to give me me a child's age, I could probably guess why they were exposed to the pharmaceutical painkillers".

In 2014, more than 2 million Americans abused a prescription opioid, according to CDC figures.

"In this study, we found that poison control centers in the United States receive a call every 45 minutes for a child that has been exposed to opioid medications".

It analyzed calls to US poison control centers between 2000 and 2015, and found a sharp increase related to opioids initially, but a drop since 2009 - with one notable exception. That amounts to about 32 calls per day.

While most of the attention has been on adults, there is a disturbing trend of opioid exposure in young children. "That safety measure does not apply to kids, and we may forget to mention that", Casavant says. Overall, 175 kids died - 55 percent of whom were teenagers. Over the course of the 16-year study period, the researchers observed a 50 percent increase in the rate of prescription-related suicides among teens.

But, he said, growing awareness of the nation's opioid problem is a likely factor. "We consider any rate of non-medical use of prescription opioids alarming, based on the known adverse consequences associated with this behavior".

But the study also found some patterns that aren't going in the right direction. Like methadone, buprenorphine mimics some, but not all, of an opiate drug's effects, which helps patients with withdrawal but does not produce the high of painkillers or street drugs.

The other study, which examined opioid use among older teens from 1976 to 2015, echoed some of these findings.

Dr. David Rosen is a professor of anesthesia and pediatrics at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

One reason rural areas are so affected, Rosen said, is that people lack access to alternative ways to manage pain.

A new study is shedding light on the issue.

While children younger than six accounted for the most exposures, teens are also at risk.

'You have to be trained to prescribe this because it's explicitly prescribed for opioid addiction. And then, the prescription should be for a small quantity of pills, at the lowest dose possible.

An urgent plea from doctors to keep prescription drugs locked up and out of the reach of children. And any leftover pills should be promptly discarded, he added.

A disturbing discovery about kids and prescription pain killers.

Like this: