HC Statistics Public Health

More opioid negative externalities: Pediatric opioid poisoning

Some people use opioids as a recreational drug. If people choose to ruin their own life, that is their problem. Others take opioids when prescribed from physicians and unwittingly become addicted. In either case, there is one scourge that may not fully be appreciated: parents who take opioids risk having their kids go into their medicine cabinets and–intentionally or unintentionally–use them.

A recent paper by Toce et al. (2020) in JAMA Pediatrics uses the National Poison Data System (NPDS) and finds that 338,476 children or young adults experienced opioid poisoning between 2005 and 2017. The vast majority of these poisonings occurred in very young children (3 or younger) or teenagers (13 to 19 years old).


The authors also find that:

PDMP [prescription drug monitoring program] and pain clinic legislation appeared to be associated with significant reductions in opioid poisoning among children 4 years and younger and adolescents between 15 and 19 years

While opioids are needed by some subset of patients, keeping opioids out of the hands of children should be a public health initiative we can all get behind.

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