Opioid exposures among U.S. children and young adults top 10,000 a year

NC bill would restrict prescriptions to patients

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
(L to R) Attorney General Josh Stein

RALEIGH/COLUMBUS, Oh. — Between 2000 and 2015, poison control centers in the United States received 188,468 calls about prescription opioid exposures in children and teens, a new study finds.That translates to roughly 11,700 calls per year placed to poison control centers, researchers say.”We knew that we were in the middle of an opioid epidemic across the country — certainly in central Ohio, where we’re located,” said study author Dr. Marcel Casavant, who is chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center in Columbus.Casavant said data from the National Poison Data System shows that children age 5 and younger usually came in contact with opioids through so-called exploratory exposures — such as when a child sees and eats a pill while crawling around on the floor.Children ages 6 to 12 were usually the victims of medication errors, for example, when they were given the wrong dose or accidentally given a second dose.Calls about teenagers and young adults were mostly due to intentional exposures, such as suicide attempts or drug abuse.The researchers report in the journal Pediatrics that opioid exposures among children and adolescents rose about 86 percent between 2000 and 2009 and then fell somewhat between 2009 and 2015.The decline, Casavant said, might mean doctors are being more careful in prescribing opioids, parents are getting better at keeping the medications out of reach or locked away, and there’s improved technology for deterring people from obtaining large amounts of opioids.A bill filed in the N.C. General Assembly recently would also put tighter restrictions on how many opioid prescriptions can be issued to a patient and also require use of a statewide system tracking which patient has how many opioids prescribed to them. The measure currently has support from both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature, as well as Attorney General Josh Stein.