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The opioid epidemic is increasingly reaching the youngest and most vulnerable members in America – children. According to recent reports from children’s hospitals, opioid injuries in children are increasing. Researchers looked at pediatric hospitalizations for opioid ingestion for over a decade and found that between 2004 and 2015 the number doubled.

Researchers analyzed data from 31 major children’s hospitals, including admissions to the pediatric intensive care unit, use of over dose medications like naloxone, vasopressors, and ventilation. Of the over 3,000 admissions for opioid injuries in children, 43% required intensive care and, sadly, 2% of the cases resulted in death.

The researchers noted in their study “The number of deaths in the United States that are attributable to opioid medications has doubled since 2000. Poisonings that are attributed to prescription drugs are now the leading cause of injury-related mortality in the United States.”

Opioid Injuries in Children

Efforts to combat the rising opioid epidemic has mainly focused on adults. Unfortunately, opioid injuries in children is on the rise as well.

“The number of deaths in the United States that are attributable to opioid medications has doubled since 2000,” note the researchers in their study findings. “Poisonings that are attributed to prescription drugs are now the leading cause of injury-related mortality in the United States.”

However, point out the researchers, opioid injuries in children from poisoning, accidental ingestion, and misuse, are also on the rise.

“Despite a number of high-profile prevention strategies, poisonings from prescription medications continue to be a major cause of morbidity among children,” state study findings. “Emergency department (ED) visits for opioid-related indications have risen substantially in both children and adults during the past 2 decades; ED visits for prescription-opioid overdose, abuse, and misuse now rival those of illicit drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Even in children <6 years old, opioids now account for the majority of drug poisonings.”

The Food and Drug administration recently warned that the risk of opioid injury in children is far too great to merit use of the drugs, including codeine based cough syrup.

“The U.S. opioid crisis is negatively impacting children, and the rate of hospitalization and PICU admission for pediatric opioid ingestions is increasing,” stated the researchers. “Current efforts to reduce adult opioid use have not curtailed the incidence of pediatric opioid ingestions, and additional efforts are needed to reduce preventable opioid exposure in children.”

The researchers report that causes of opioid injuries in children remains relatively unknown. Researchers set out to investigate how children get their hands on and ingest opioids.

“The increasing number of adult drug prescriptions is strongly associated with rising pediatric exposures and poisonings; young children are at the greatest risk for exposure, with substantial health care use and morbidity specifically associated with opioid ingestions,” point out the researchers in their report. “The exploratory nature of young children makes them particularly vulnerable to harm from accidental medication ingestions as opposed to adolescents and teenagers, who are more likely to have intentional ingestions, including for recreational purposes or for self-harm.”

The researchers also note that efforts to curtail prescription opioid use in adults has not decreased the rate of opioid injuries in children. The researchers recommend additional efforts targeting opioid injuries in children.

If you or a loved one have experienced opioid injuries, contact the experienced attorneys at McDonald Worley to help evaluate any legal claims you may have.