Are Painkillers a New Threat to Children?

The percentage of painkiller poisonings among children which result in emergency hospital admissions has improved, scientists have revealed. The study involving more than 200,000 US paediatric cases of abuse abuse or self-harm highlights how the opioid crisis is affecting people. The results show that although the amount of incidents reported overall has dropped since 2005, the threat to life is climbing.

“This study suggests that the opioid outbreak continues to have a serious effect on pediatric patients, and the healthcare resources required to take care of them,” said research researcher Megan Land from Emory University in the US.

According to the researchers, the proportion of paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admissions rose by over a third during the study period from 5,203 (6.6 percent ), from 80,141 reports of poisonings between 2005 and 2009, to 4,586 (9.6 per cent) out of 48,435 between 2015 to 2018.

The focus has largely been on adults so that this study set out to investigate the impact on children, specifically trends in admissions to PICU.

The researchers consulted the National Poison Data System database for deliberate or accidental incidents of esophageal exposure between infants and children up to age 19. They found 207,543 instances were reported to 55 US poison control centers.

Factors analysed included opioid type, cause of drug poisoning and the rate of cases. The study also calculated the proportion of the proportion of those requiring medical treatment and patients who ended up in PICUs.

The research suggests that an intensive care admission was not required by nearly all child drug poisonings, and either resulted at all. But the proportion needing specialist treatment did increase.

Suspected suicide cases among under-19s who have overdosed on prescription or legal opioid drugs are fueling this trend of children, the study said. Prescription pain-reliever fentanyl and heroin are associated with the demand for intensive care physicians to offer treatment, according to the findings.

The picture was comparable with psychiatric unit admissions — the percentage of these more than doubled from 2,806 (3.57 percent ), from 80,141 involving 2005 to 2009, to 3,909 (8.18 per cent) from 48,435 between 2015 to 2018. This was also the case for the ratio of intensive care admissions requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which went from 68 (1.31 per cent) from 5,203 to 146 (3.18 per cent) out of 4,586 over the identical time period.

The researchers are calling for a strategy that combines access to be restricted by laws to opioids with mental health support for teens and children.
Doctors that treat young people and children should keep on lobbying for policy changes, they added.