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National Study: Prescription Opioid Exposures to Children Have Declined in Recent Years, But Remain a Problem

On average, there were more than 11,700 prescription opioid exposures among children and adolescents younger than 20 years of age reported each year to U.S. poison control centers from 2000 through 2015, according to a study published in the April 2017 issue of Pediatrics. The study, “Prescription Opioid Exposures Among Children and Adolescents in the United States:2000-2015,” (published online March 20) analyzed 188,468 reported pediatric prescription opioid exposures, finding that serious outcomes were higher among teenagers, who were more likely to have intentionally used the substances.  The rate of prescription opioid-related suspected suicides among teenagers rose by more than 50 percent during the study period. Over all, the annual number and rate of prescription opioid exposures steadily increased from 2000 to 2009, and then declined, with the exception of buprenorphine exposures. Buprenorphine exposures increased over the final three years of the study, with nearly 90 percent of exposures attributed to children age 5 years and younger, and among these children, more than half were admitted to a health care facility. Hydrocodone was the most common medication implicated in all reported exposures; and among children younger than 13 years of age, methadone and buprenorphine were associated with a larger percentage of hospital admissions and serious medical outcomes. The authors conclude that greater efforts are needed to prevent opioid exposure to children of all ages.


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