(HealthDay). According to a new study, over the past two decades, the death rate from opioid overdose among children and adolescents in the United States has tripled.
Young children either died from accidental drug use or from deliberate poisoning. Meanwhile, adolescents died from unintentional overdose using their parents' prescription painkillers or drugs bought on the street, says lead researcher Julie Geiter, a teacher at the Yale School of Medicine.
Since 1999, almost 9,000 young people have died at the hands of opioids.
“These deaths do not reach adult mortality rates from opioids, but they follow a similar pattern,” said Gaiter.
“Because we are considering how to contain this epidemic, parents, doctors, and doctors should consider how this affects children and adolescents and how our families and communities are affected,” she said.
For the study, Gaiter and her colleagues used data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 to 2016.
During this time, about 9,000 children and adolescents died from poisoning caused by prescription or illegal opioids. Researchers have found that about 40 percent of deaths occurred at home.
Although mortality in 2008 and 2009 has decreased due to the fact that doctors have changed their habits, mortality is now increasing, as more teens use heroin and fentanyl, said Gaiter.
The researchers found that the highest risk was observed among older teens, who accounted for 88 percent of those who died during the study.
But, unfortunately, even children under 5 years old die from opioids, they noted.
About 25 percent of the deaths of these young children – 148 cases – were deliberate murders, said Gaiter. More research is needed to understand the role that abuse and neglect play in these deaths, as well as parenting habits of drug use.
While whites and men most often die from a drug overdose, other groups, such as girls, blacks and Hispanics, are catching up, Geater said.
According to her, despite efforts to curb the opioid crisis among adults, not enough has been done to stop the spread of the opioid epidemic among children and families.
Geiter said that child-safe prescription drug packaging, such as suboxone, can prevent many of these deaths. In addition, methadone, a drug used to reduce cravings for drug addicts, is also involved in many of the deaths of children, she said.
The report was published online December 28 in the journal. JAMA Network Open,
One psychiatrist who did not participate in the study points to the tragedy of these deaths.
“It’s scary and sad to see all these people die,” said Dr. Scott Krakover, assistant chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York.
“This should encourage people and doctors to be more attentive to what is happening,” he said.
Cracker said parents should lock up prescription drugs and dispose of unused pills. These simple steps will help keep these dangerous drugs in the hands of young children.
In addition, pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies need to be sure that the drugs are in child-safe containers, he said.
More than two thirds of drug addiction deaths in 2017 were caused by opioids.
Julie Geiter, Ph.D., Instructor, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn .; Scott Krakover, DO, Assistant Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, N.Yu.; December 28, 2018 JAMA Network Openonline