Published: Wed, March 07, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

More US Kids Landing in ICU From Opioids

More US Kids Landing in ICU From Opioids

"When they come in, they're going to fall into one of two categories: either they're teenagers with intentional or drug-seeking behavior because of recreational or self-injurious behavior, or they're kids who got into their parents' medication", says Dr. Jason Kane, an associate professor of pediatrics and critical care at Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago and a lead author on the study.

For the study, researchers assessed hospitalization data compiled in the Pediatric Health Information System at 31 children's hospitals between 2004-15.

Opioid-related hospitalizations were highest among children ages 12-17 (61 percent) followed by children ages 1 to 5 (34.2 percent) and ages 6 to 11 (4.8 percent). Nationally, the rate of hospitalization and pediatric intensive care unit admission for opioid ingestions increased from 2004 to 2015, according to a study published online March 5 in Pediatrics. In addition, 37 percent of the young patients had to be put on mechanical ventilators and more than a fifth required medication to prevent cardiac arrest, the researchers found.

"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", the Chicago team wrote. He also hopes more responsible prescribing practices and laws will start to bring the number of child hospitalizations down in the years to come.

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An estimated 2.4 million Americans have an opioid use disorder, according to federal estimates. The total number of hospital days attributed to children with opioid ingestion also "continues to increase over time at an alarming rate". Synthetic opioid overdoses terminated 20,000 people in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Last Feb. 27, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of the Department of Justice Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force, to fight the prescription opioid crisis. Non-opioid alternatives to pain management were also recommended. Among the most commonly abused opioids include prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.

"It's certainly not uncommon for the people we treat here, the adults we treat here, to have children in their home", Parsons said.

Reasons for the increases are unclear but it could be that drugs became more widely available and potent during the study years, Kane said.

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