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Opioid overdose: Number of US kids making ER visits on the rise, cautions study

More and more American children are reaching the emergency rooms (ERs) of hospitals, with the number almost doubling from 2004 to 2015, according to a recent study, published in the Pediatrics in March. The number included teenagers who abused drugs and children who consumed these drugs accidentally.

According to lead researcher Dr. Jason Kane, these admissions are preventable and the kids do not deserve to be in the pediatric intensive care units. As per the federal estimates, nearly 2.4 million Americans grapple with an opioid use disorder (OUD), which includes abuse of prescription opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin and illegal opioids like heroin. However, most of the data resources focus on the adults.

Nearly 135 kids tested positive for opioid dependence every day in 2013, subsequently landing in the pediatric intensive care unit. Some of the kids had a respiratory distress, while some had very low levels of blood pressure.

The study authors analyzed data from 31 children’s hospitals in the U.S. A total of 3,600 children and teenagers were admitted to the hospital between 2004 and 2015 for an opioid overdose and 43 percent of them had to be admitted to the ICU.

Gradually, the number of ICU admissions rose from 367 kids between 2004 and 2007 to 643 between 2012 and 2015. Most of these were teenagers and about one-third were children under six years who would have gotten opioids accidentally. Moreover, nearly 2 percent of children died after overdosing. The findings also revealed that the nation had only 4,000 pediatric ICU beds.

The researchers also found that the overall cost of care per child decreased from, $6,200 to $4,500. However, since the number of children requiring such costs increased, the financial burden elevated.

“The thing that was a bit striking is that in the youngest children, those under six years of age, 20 percent of the ingestions were of methadone,” said Kane. The reason behind this is the increase in the number of parents taking to methadone.

Dr. Sheryl Ryan, chief of adolescent medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said the epidemic is no longer limited to adults only. He said the parents who have legitimate prescription need to store them properly and must keep them out of the children’s reach.

The study also revealed that one-fifth of the children reaching ICU had taken methadone, commonly used for the management of opioid abuse. She further emphasized on the importance of prescription take back programs, locking the medicines in a safe and disposing of the extra pills. Besides, parents should be watchful of their own behavior in front of kids. They should start educating kids about substance abuse from an early age.

Recovery from addiction

If a loved one is battling an addiction to opioids or any other substance, he/she must be provided professional help and treatment at the earliest. The 24/7 Recovery Helpline can help you learn more about addiction, identify the symptoms and get connected to the best of treatment providers.

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