New study shows opioid epidemic is putting kids at risk

(Photo: WNCT)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WISH) — A new study from the Children’s Nationwide Hospital in Ohio shows how the nation’s drug epidemic is impacting children. As parents are fighting addiction, researchers found children are often being exposed to dangerous drugs.

The study found that someone calls a United States Poison Control Center every 45 minutes on average because a child has been exposed to opioids. Researchers analyzed poison control calls from 2000 to 2015. They found the overall number of children exposed to opioids increased by 86 percent in the first decade.

After 2009, they started to see a significant decrease — with one exception. More and more children were being exposed to drugs used to treat opioid addiction.

“Counter to the decline in exposures to other types of opioids, we actually saw a pretty significant increase in exposures to buprenorphine during the last two years of the study among children,” said author Dr. Marcel Casavant, medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “This is a type of opioid medication that is primarily used to treat people for addiction to heroin and other opioids. Calls to poison control centers regarding buprenorphine continue to climb.”

While those pills may help parents who are trying to fight their addiction, they can be extremely dangerous to kids.

“When children get exposed to buprenorphine, if mom or dad sees it happening and they take the pill out of the child’s mouth, their child can still go into a coma and stop breathing many hours later,” Casavant explained.

Researchers found the majority of kids exposed to those types of drugs are under six years old. More than half of them have to be admitted to a health care facility. Experts are encouraging drug manufacturers to start using more individually packaged pills instead of loose pills in a bottle.