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Opioid Poisoning Is Rising Fast Among High School Teens

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Hospitals are experiencing steep increases in the number of teens and children admitted for opioid poisoning and experts blame over-prescribed pain medications.

The number of prescription pills saturating the U.S. market quadrupled since 2000, sparking the opioid epidemic and predisposing young individuals to severe addiction. Hospitalizations for opioid poisoning are up 176 percent among people ages 15 – 19-years-old. Poor oversight of prescription pills by parents are often behind teen exposure to opioids. This is reflected in a 205 percent increase in poisoning among 1 – 4-year-olds for accidental ingestion, reports Philly.com.

The recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics looked at 13,000 U.S. pediatric discharge records for patients 1-19-years-old. (RELATED: Rising Prescription Opioid Deaths Spark Reform In New Hampshire)

“Hospitalizations increased across all age groups, yet young children and older adolescents were most vulnerable to the risks of opioid exposure,” state the researchers. “Mitigating these risks will require comprehensive strategies that target opioid storage, packaging, and misuse.”

A separate poll recently found most heroin addicts between the ages of 18 and 24 began with opioid pills, sometimes prescribed, but often given by a friend or taken from a family member. Public health experts warn parents need to take stringent repercussions on where and how they store their prescription medications, especially in a household with children.

The researchers cannot give a definitive answer on why opioid poisoning in children is up, but conclude it is likely the effect of oversupply. Doctors have flooded the country with prescription painkillers, making them easier to obtain, whether by prescription or other means.

“We know that – [with] this crisis we’re in now with the opioid epidemic with people suffering addiction and overdoses and so on – we know that looking back, the number of prescriptions has quadrupled since about the year 2000,” Dr. William Goodman, chief medical officer at Catholic Medical Center, told WMUR. “By putting fewer pills out on the street there’s less chance for diversion and misuse.”

New Hampshire, which is being ravished by opioid overdoses, instituted new rules Sunday requiring doctors to perform a comprehensive risk evaluation of patients before issuing a prescription.

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