US kids, teens go­ing to ER with opi­oid ad­dic­tion in­creas­ing

Iran Daily - - Society -

A grow­ing num­ber of chil­dren and teens are turn­ing up in US emer­gency de­part­ments de­pen­dent on opi­oids — in­clud­ing pre­scrip­tion painkillers and heroin, a new study found.

Re­searchers found that in 2013, nearly 50,000 ER pa­tients aged 21 and younger were di­ag­nosed with opi­oid de­pen­dence or ad­dic­tion. That was up from just over 32,200 in 2008, UPI wrote.

By that fi­nal year, roughly 135 kids were test­ing pos­i­tive for opi­oid de­pen­dence each day in the na­tion’s emer­gency de­part­ments, the re­searchers said.

Child health ex­perts said the find­ings of­fer the lat­est glimpse into the na­tional opi­oid epi­demic — and, specif­i­cally, its im­pact on kids.

Lead re­searcher Dr. Veer­a­ja­land­har Al­lareddy, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the pe­di­atric in­ten­sive care unit at Stead Fam­ily Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, in Iowa City, said, “This is not just a prob­lem for adults. Kids are also at risk of opi­oid abuse, and it’s an emerg­ing pub­lic health is­sue.”

One doc­tor, who sees kids with opi­oid de­pen­dence, said he was not sur­prised by the study re­sults.

Dr. Mar­cel Casa­vant, chief of tox­i­col­ogy at Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, in Colum­bus, Ohio, said, “I have no prob­lem be­liev­ing this. I can tell you this is real, based on my own prac­tice.

“There are def­i­nitely more and younger chil­dren turn­ing up [with opi­oid de­pen­dence].”

In a study pub­lished ear­lier this year, Casa­vant and his col­leagues found one promis­ing pat­tern: US poi­son con­trol cen­ters are see­ing fewer calls about chil­dren and teenagers who’d in­gested pre­scrip­tion opi­oids — ei­ther ac­ci­den­tally or in­ten­tion­ally.

But some other trends were omi­nous: Among teenagers, the rate of sus­pected sui­cide by opi­oid over­dose rose by 53 per­cent be­tween 2000 and 2015.

The new study fo­cused on opi­oid de­pen­dence and ad­dic­tion among young peo­ple, us­ing emer­gency depart­ment records from a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of US hos­pi­tals.

In 2008, there were 32,235 pa­tients younger than 21 di­ag­nosed with opi­oid de­pen­dence or ad­dic­tion. By 2013, that had risen to 49,626, the find­ings showed.

The large ma­jor­ity of those ER vis­its — 88 per­cent — were made by 18- to 21-year-olds, while 16- and 17-year-olds ac­counted for over eight per­cent. But there was a ‘hand­ful’ of cases among chil­dren younger than 12, Al­lareddy said.

Opi­oids in­clude heroin, as well as pre­scrip­tion painkillers like Oxy­con­tin, Per­co­cet and Vi­codin. Start­ing in the 1990s, US doc­tors started pre­scrib­ing those pain med­i­ca­tions much more of­ten, over con­cerns that pa­tients with se­vere pain were not be­ing ad­e­quately helped.

Na­tion­wide, sales of pre­scrip­tion opi­oids rose 300 per­cent be­tween 1999 and 2008, ac­cord­ing to the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

But there was an un­in­tended side ef­fect: A sharp rise in painkiller abuse and ‘di­ver­sion’ — mean­ing the drugs in­creas­ingly got into the hands of peo­ple with no le­git­i­mate med­i­cal need.

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