On June 1, 2017, a 19-month-old boy in Akron, Ohio was suspected to have overdosed on an opioid while fiddling with a bag containing residue. His family called 911 to summon emergency workers to their home after they found the toddler not breathing. Paramedics were able to revive the baby with Narcan, an anti-opioid drug, before taking him to the hospital. On June 4, 2017, the baby passed away. Police confirmed that the opioids belonged to the boy’s mother, who fled after emergency services reached the house.
In July 2016, an 18-month-old girl was treated for overdosing on Percocet, a highly addictive painkiller. What made the case more shocking was that the toddler had been treated for the same condition a few days before the second incident. Police investigations showed that the child got access to the medicine twice, on July 19 and July 24. In the first instance, the mother revealed that the toddler took the pills from her purse; however, the parents could not explain how the child got the pills, the second time.
These are not isolated incidents – they reflect a small but increasing trend of accidental overdoses among toddlers, most likely due to parents’ negligence. These young victims are mostly children under five years. Some children survive after being administered anti-opioid medication, but others become tragic victims of America’s opioid crisis.
Opioid poisoning incidents increased by over 200 percent among children aged 1 to 4
Between January 2000 and December 2015, poison centers received an average of 32 calls a day, one every 45 minutes, reporting opioid exposure among children aged 20 or below. It was found that children below five years had the highest level of opioid exposures – at 60 percent. Nearly 90 percent of overdose cases involved buprenorphine, an anti-opiate drug. A study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) and the Central Ohio Poison Center (COPC) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital led to these findings, which were published in the journal Pediatrics in April 2017.
Another study, published in JAMA Pediatrics in December 2016, undertook a retrospective analysis of over 13,000 pediatric hospital records of children aged 1 to 19 years who were hospitalized for opioid overdoses. It was found that overall hospitalization rates for these children increased by 165 percent between 1997 and 2012. The study also reported an increase of 205 percent in hospitalizations of children aged one to four years during the 16-year period.
The findings suggest that opioid drugs can be accessed by children of all ages, including toddlers. This significantly increases the risk of accidental consumption and overdose, many of which are fatal. Health care experts are of the opinion that toddlers ingest the drugs mistaking them to be candy or treats. Consuming adult-dosage drugs also exposes children to the risk of serious respiratory issues.
Increased awareness regarding packaging and safe storage of painkillers is needed
Gary Smith, director of the CIRP at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, states that although overall exposure rates of opioids among children are decreasing, they are still very high. Prescription practices need to be constantly examined and parents need to be made more aware regarding safe storage practices for medicines at home so that they remain out of children’s reach.
Past research by the Johns Hopkins University recommends development of better and tamper-proof packaging for prescription drugs. This will not only reduce the chances of accidental consumption by children but will also prevent the drugs from being illegally bought and sold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been advocating prescriptions under controlled settings since leftover drugs are often improperly stored which makes them easily accessible to children and adolescents.
Those addicted to drugs are advised to seek immediate assistance from an expert to get cured of the dangerous addiction. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline can provide help in case of emergency situations. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 or chat online with our representatives to know about prescription drug abuse treatment centers located near you that offer personalized programs in a congenial environment.