Published: Wed, March 07, 2018
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Pediatric opioid overdoses almost double in 10 years

Pediatric opioid overdoses almost double in 10 years

Opioid overdoses in children almost doubled during the past decade, while the number of deaths from those overdoses fell during that time period, according to a new study.

For the new study, researchers examined billing records from 49 children's hospitals in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

Last Updated: March 05, 2018. Overall mortality was 1.6 percent, with annual deaths decreasing from 2.8 to 1.3 percent over the study period (P 0.001).

Nearly half of the overdose victims ended up in a pediatric intensive care unit, which is a concern because of the limited number of PICU beds nationwide. In addition, 37 percent of the young patients had to be put on mechanical ventilators and more than a fifth required medication to prevent cardiac arrest, the researchers found.

The new study found a similar increase in patients requiring intensive treatment, rising from 367 to 643 in the final years.A small fraction of the almost 4.2 million hospitalizations of children during the study involved opioids, but 43 percent of these opioid-related stays required intensive treatment.

In 2016, an estimate of 64,000 Americans died due to a drug overdose, where a majority of the cases from opioid overdose. While many kids got hold of heroin, even more were made sick by methadone - used to treat opioid addiction - and other opioid drugs.

"Current efforts to reduce prescription opioid use in adults have not curtailed the incidence of pediatric opioid ingestion, and additional efforts are needed to reduce preventable opioid exposure in children", the authors wrote. Adolescents and teenagers, they added, are more likely to seek out drugs intentionally.

Kane, an associate pediatrics professor with the University of Chicago, said adult health providers need to do more to educate their patients about the potential dangers to children of having opioid medications in their home and the need to take the necessary safeguards.

Opioid-related admission data for CHOP were not available Friday.

Insurance coverage for most of the patients in the study was provided by Medicaid.

"These children are quite ill, and are using the ICU resources well and above the rate of the average child admitted to the hospital", says Dr. Jason Kane.

But parents of older kids also need to keep a watchful eye over any prescription opioids, Ryan stressed.

The study was published today in Pediatrics.

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