GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the country deals with an increase in opioid overdoses in adults, there has also been an increase in opioid poisoning among children, a new study shows.
According to the study from the Yale School of Medicine published Monday, the number of children hospitalized for opioid poisoning between 1997 and 2012 increased by 165 percent. More than 13,000 children were hospitalized in that time; 176 of them died.
>>Online: Yale study on opioid poisoning
While the largest number of kids affected were older teens ages 15 to 19, opioid poisonings are growing at a faster rate among young children ages 1 to 5 — up 205 percent.
“I think it tells us that we’ve got to do a better job at keeping these pills out of the hands of little kids,” Dr. Julie Gaither, who was involved in the study, told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Monday. “We’ve got to do a better job of storing them and treat them like any other object that can harm a child.”
She also pointed out that while these drug overdoses among children under 10 were typically accidental, suicide was usually the intent with older teens.
She has compared the drugs to guns in terms of the threat they pose to children.
“The reason I made that comparison was that I’ve looked at injuries in children from firearms before and my point there is that we would not leave a gun lying on a table, hopefully, where a child could get into it — but opioids, if a child gets into a medication that was prescribed for someone who, say, weighs 200 pounds and they stick that in their mouth, it’s very, very dangerous and it could be fatal,” she said.