51 Toddlers Died From Opioid Poisoning In 2015 Amid Epidemic

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The rate of toddlers dying from accidental opioid poisoning is rising amid the national epidemic, and experts are blaming parents for irresponsibly storing the potent painkillers.

While the impact on toddlers is small in relation to the havoc opioid pills are wreaking in the adult population, the numbers are steadily increasing. Medical professionals say the death rate stresses the need for proper pill storage at home, particularly in households with curious toddlers who could stumble upon the medication. Opioid poisoning claimed the lives of 14 toddlers under the age of five in 2000 and that figure jumped to 51 deaths in 2015, according to the Associated Press.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that with Americans still consuming record amounts of opioids, the threat these medications pose to children is increasing. Four children died last year from opioid poisoning in Milwaukee County, Wisc., one of the communities hit hardest by opioid abuse. The community lost a two-year-old to opioids in January.

“When adults bring these medications into their homes, they can become a danger to the children that live there,” Marcel Casavant, medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, told The Washington Post Monday. “It is important that these medications are stored up, away and out of sight of kids of all ages, in a locked cabinet is best.”

Poison control centers are receiving roughly one call every 45 minutes for a child suffering from opioid poisoning, according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. Centers average 32 calls a day for child opioid poisoning, and 60 percent of the cases involve children younger than the age of five.

The most commonly implicated medications in child poisoning are hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine. A recent study from Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy says roughly 70 percent of parents prescribed pain medications like Oxycontin, Vicidone and Percocet are not taking responsible precautions to keep the pills away from their children.

Parents are generally not concerned about their children finding or taking prescription medications, despite the pervasiveness of the opioid epidemic.

Nearly 73 percent of parents surveyed by Johns Hopkins researchers acknowledged kids are at a greater risk of overdose from prescription opioids than adults, but only 13 percent said they worry about their kids accessing and abusing their prescription pills.

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