Study: US poison control centers receive a pediatric opioid exposure call every 45 minutes

Opioid exposure is affecting children across the U.S. on a daily basis, according to a study published online by Pediatrics.

The study was conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital. Researchers conducted the study using data from the National Poison Data System.

They found U.S. poison control centers received more than 188,000 calls for children exposed to opioids from January 2000 through December 2015, according to a news release. This averages 32 calls daily or one every 45 minutes.

The study found 60 percent of pediatric exposure to opioids took place among children younger than five years old, while 30 percent took place among teenagers, according to the release. Additionally, the study found pediatric exposure to hydrocodone led to the most calls (29 percent), followed by oxycodone (18 percent) and codeine (17 percent).

Also, the study looked at why the exposure occurred and the severity of the exposure by age. Researchers found children age 5 and younger exposed to opioids primarily were exposed at home and "were managed there without serious medical outcome," according to the release. "Most were unintentional non-therapeutic exposures likely caused by exploratory behaviors," the release adds.

However, the study found more than two-thirds of the exposures among teenagers were intentional. "Of particular concern was the more than 50 percent increase in the rate of prescription opioid-related suspected suicides among teenagers during the 16-year study period," the release states. "Teens also had greater odds of being admitted to a healthcare facility and experiencing serious outcomes than younger children."

Overall, the study found the number and rate of pediatric exposures to most opioids has steadily declined since 2009, but pediatric buprenorphine exposures continue to rise, according to the release.

In light of this study, researchers are urging for changes to the packaging of prescription opioids. Researchers said they believe prescription opioids should be packaged "more frequently in blister packs or single-dose packaging instead of having the entire prescription filled as loose pills in one prescription bottle."


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