A growing number of children and teenagers are being accidentally poisoned by opioids and medications for adult chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, according to a new study.
More than 70,000 children under 18 go to the emergency room because of accidental medication exposures and poisonings each year, according to researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital. They report in Pediatrics the rate of such visits rose 30 percent between 2001 and 2008. Hospitalization rates for accidental poisonings in children rose 36 percent, USA Today reports.
Serious injuries and hospitalizations occurred most frequently with opioids and diabetes medications. “Increasing adult drug prescriptions are strongly associated with rising pediatric exposures and poisonings, particularly for opioids and among children 0 to 5 years old,” the researchers wrote. “These associations have sizable impacts, including high rates of serious injury and health care use.”
The study excluded antidepressants, because they are increasingly prescribed for young people. The researchers wanted to look at drugs that generally are prescribed for adults. The researchers found children under age 5 were most at risk for poisoning, followed by teens ages 13 to 19.
Study co-author Florence Bourgeois said young children generally are accidentally poisoned when they swallow drugs they find while exploring, while teens tend to seek out drugs such as opioids and intentionally take them.