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Study: Poison Control Receives Nearly 12,000 Calls Per Year For Children, Teen Opioid Exposure

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Study: Poison Control Receives Nearly 12,000 Calls Per Year For Children, Teen Opioid Exposure

According to a recent study, between 2010 and 2015 poison control centers in the U.S. received more than 188,400 calls related to prescription painkiller exposure among teens and children. That equates to about 11,700 calls per year.

Study author, Dr. Marcel Casavant, Chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to Reuters Health:

“We knew that we were in the middle of an opioid epidemic across the country – certainly in central Ohio, where we’re located.”

Casavant also reported that data from the National Poison Data System reveals that children age 5 and below are often exposed to opioids during exploration, such as finding a pill within reach and consuming it.

Conversely, children aged 6-12 usually suffered from errors in medication administration, such as being given too large a dose or a second dose accidentally. Teenagers and young adults were most likely to suffer from intentional exposures, such as suicide attempts.

In the study, which was published online in the journal Pediatrics this week, researchers stated that child and adolescent exposure to opioids increased around 86% between 2000-2009, but decreased again between 2009-2015.

Casavant said that the decline might reflect, among other trends, more conservative prescribing practices among doctors.

However, the decrease could also mean more people are switching to heroin, as prescription painkillers have become more difficult to obtain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 in 5 new heroin users state they began their habit after becoming addicted to prescription opioids.

And despite the decline, the number of teenagers exposed to opioids was still higher in 2015 than 2000. And of course, the true number of these exposures is probably much higher, once you include exposures that did not result in a poison control call.

In addition to the study, a companion piece published in Pediatrics notes a strong association between the attainment of prescription opioids and recreational (or non-medical) use. Moreover, teenagers who abuse opioids likely once held a legitimate prescription.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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