Skip Navigation LinksStudy-Analyzes-Adverse-Effects-From-Opioids-Prescribed-to-Children-for-Non-Severe-Conditions

aaa print

Study Analyzes Adverse Effects From Opioids Prescribed to Children for Non-Severe Conditions


A study found that between 1999 and 2014, 15% of children enrolled in Tennessee Medicaid and without severe conditions received an opioid prescription each year. One in every 2,611 of these opioid prescriptions was related to adverse effects which resulted in an emergency department visit, hospital admission, or death. The study, “Outpatient Opioid Prescriptions for Children without Severe Conditions and Opioid-Related Adverse Events,” will be published in the August 2018 issue of Pediatrics (published online July 16). The study analyzed outpatient prescriptions for children ages 2 to 17 enrolled in Tennessee’s Medicaid program between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2014 without severe conditions or substance use disorders. Opioids were most commonly prescribed for dental procedures (31.1 percent); outpatient surgical or medical procedures (25.1 percent); trauma (18.1 percent); and minor infections (16.5 percent). Researchers identified 1,179 potential opioid-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations or deaths, and they confirmed 437 by review of medical records. More than two thirds of the adverse events were related to therapeutic use of the prescription. The rate of outpatient opioid prescriptions for children declined over the study period to 10.2% in 2014, but the authors suggest that efforts to improve opioid safety be strengthened.

Editor’s Note: A solicited commentary, “The National Opioid Epidemic and the Risk of Outpatient Opioids in Children,” will be published in the same issue.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds