The frightening dangers of adult opioid use has now trickled down to the youth of the nation. Recent reports from the publication Pediatrics now states that the number of children admitted into hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled since 2004.
Using information from the Pediatric Health information System Database, the report showed information regarding children ages 1 to 17, who were admitted into intensive care units with opioid related diagnosises into hospitals in the US. The rate of underage overdoses doubled in between the years of 2012-2015. In 2004-2007, 797 patients overdosed. In between 2012-2015, 1,504 patients.
“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,” said 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.
“The thing that was a bit striking is that in the youngest children, those under six years of age, 20% of the ingestions were of methadone. So you sort of have to ask yourself: where are they getting all this methadone from?” Methadone is a widely prescribed medication for the treatment of opioid withdrawal symptoms and also as a pain killer.
This only further confirms the wide reach this epidemic is having on the country. Not only are the addicts who consume the drugs are being harmed in many different ways, families of addicts, socioeconomic climates in small towns are taking nose dives with all of the emergency services given to overdose victims as well. Many complain that the services rendured to repeat offenders are going to bankrupt the country while they are knowingly taking risks that could kill themselves.
“What was really striking to me is just how sick these kids are and that almost half of them end up in the ICU,” Kane said. “The reason why that’s important to recognize is that nationwide there’s only about 4,100 pediatric ICU beds, which is in contrast to the number of adult ICU beds, which is closer to 78,000.
“So everytime you put a child in a pediatric ICU bed, you’re using a very limited resource,” he added. “And if we fill our pediatric ICU beds with patients who have entirely preventable conditions, we will not be able to give those beds to patients who truly need them for unpreventable medical conditions.”
Of the 3,647 children admitted with some type of opioid related diagnosis, 43% of those children ended up in a pediatric care unit that is reserved for the most severe and life threatening of children’s cases.
“If they’re very sick, we can give a reversal agent such as naloxone, or Narcan. In patients who need additional support, we can provide respiratory support through mechanical ventilation — we put a breathing tube down their throat,” Daftary said.
“We can also provide blood pressure support through medications, and that’s because significant exposure to opioids can decrease your blood pressure by quite a bit, making it difficult for your body to maintain supply of nutrients to important organs such as the kidney and the brain,” he added.
Most of the reported overdoses don’t have a clear definition of accidental vs. intentional. Some may have over consumed in an effort to get high, those were mostly in the age 12-17 children, but as much as one third of children in the report were under the age of 6.
“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,” lead author Jason Kane, a pediatrician at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, told CNN. “The thing that was a bit striking is that in the youngest children, those under six years of age, 20 percent of the ingestions were of methadone. So you sort of have to ask yourself: where are they getting all this methadone from?”
It’s estimated that over 42,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2016, while 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder.