Opioids Are Sending More Kids To The Hospital

Thousands of children (Toddlers and older teens) are hospitalized annually for prescription opioid poisonings in recent years, according to a study published Oct. 31 in JAMA Pediatrics, and supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The findings from the JAMA Network are based on a review of hospital discharge records over a 16-year period, that show the impact of the prescription opioid crisis on children and the need for strategies to address it.

Researchers found the growing use and abuse of common painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are linked to a rise in hospitalizations for opioid poisonings among adults and children, after conducting a comprehensive analysis on 1997 to 2012 Kids’ Inpatient Database (a US Database of children admitted to hospitals) and identified 13,000 records of patients aged 1 to 19 who were hospitalized for opioid poisonings.

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Julie R. Gaither, PhD, the first author of the study, talked about the increase recorded in the hospitalizations for opioid poisonings among youngest kids and the oldest teens:

Over 16 years, poisonings from prescription opioids in children and teens increased nearly twofold. s

Those most vulnerable to opioid exposure were children ages 1 to 4 and 15 to 19. In toddlers and preschoolers, rates more than doubled over time.

Gaither noted that prescription opioid poisonings among children less than 10 years of age were primarily of an accidental nature, but among older teens, suicidal intent was the primary cause.

For 15 to 19 year olds, we saw a slight decrease, 7%, in hospitalizations from 2009 to 2012.

Despite the decrease in the hospitalizations among older teens,  Gaither noted that:

prescription opioid poisonings are likely to remain a growing problem among children unless greater attention is directed toward the pediatric community.


Julie R. Gaither, PhD et al; National Trends in Hospitalizations for Opioid Poisonings Among Children and Adolescents, 1997 to 2012. JAMA Pediatr: doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2154

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