“As the adult epidemic improves, we may be seeing an unintended consequence of more prescription drugs like methadone in the home. Children are becoming “second victims” of the adult opioid epidemic.”
~ Dr. Jason Kane, Comer Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago
According to a study released in early March 2018, the number of children admitted to US hospitals for opioid-related causes has almost DOUBLED within the last decade:
- 2004-2011: There were 797 opioid-related cases among children ages 1 to 17
- 2012-2015: That number had jumped to 1504
This increase in opioid-related admissions among preschoolers and adolescents comes at a time when the adult fatal overdose rate involving prescription opioids has plateaued.
What’s worse, accidental opioid poisonings are far more dangerous to children than they are to adults. In the study, a total of 4.1 million opioid poisoning cases were reviewed, and among those, only 12% required treatment in an Intensive Care Unit. Yet among children who were victims of opioid poisoning, 43% needed the ICU.
Of special relevance, 20% of preschool admissions for opioid poisoning were specifically for methadone. 2% of child patients died after accidentally ingesting opioids.
What Does All of This Mean?
The good news is that with the increasing focus on curbing opioid misuse and overdoses, more treatment options will become available – including anti-craving and replacement therapy medications. The onus will then be on all of us to take special precautions to keep any and all prescription opioids out of the reach of children.
Dr. Kane concluded, “Two percent seems like a very low number, but when you think about two children out of 100 dying from a condition that could have been completely avoidable, that’s disheartening.”
Addiction is a disease that hurts more than the substance abuser – the entire family is affected, especially children. If you or someone you care about is abusing opioids or any other substance, the best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to seek specialized professional care.