Study: Opioid poisonings in toddlers up 205 percent

Image Credit: WNCT
Image Credit: WNCT

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – An alarming new study shows the opioid epidemic is impacting more than just adults—it’s hitting people even as young as toddlers.

The new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Pediatric Publication looked at more than 13,000 hospital discharge records. Specifically, it examined opioid poisonings for kids ages 1 to 19. Here’s what they found over the last 16 years:

  • Overall, hospitalizations for opioid poisoning increased 165%
  • 140% increase in kids ages 15 to 19
  • 205% increase in kids ages 1 to 4

Local health experts blame the rising numbers on adults being careless about where they leave medication.

Vidant Chief of Emergency Services Dr. Ted Delbridge says he’s not surprised by these findings.

“The number of prescriptions for opioid medications has increased fourfold over the last 15 years or so. And there have always been accidental overdoses in toddlers and young children. So it just stands to reason that if you put that much more medication out in the marketplace, that the exposure potentially to children is going to increase also,” Dr. Delbridge said.

These overdoses are largely accidental, especially with younger kids. Doctors in the east say they have seen cases of older kids taking prescription drugs, but consider themselves fortunate to have seen no cases in younger children so far.

“We haven’t actually experienced this to an extent that we could observe it here. We know that in the big population of children, children will die because what it does, it stops them from breathing. So if they stop breathing long enough then essentially they suffocate,” Dr. Delbridge said.

Dr. Delbridge says any medicine can potentially be toxic to children. That’s why it’s important to keep them out of reach in a secure location.