"Of particular concern was the more than 50 percent increase in the rate of prescription opioid-related suspected suicides among teenagers during the 16-year study period", the release states.
The researchers also recommend that prescription opioids be packaged more frequently in blister packs, or single-dose packaging, rather than batches of loose pills in a bottle.
A new study finds poison control centers in the USA receive 32 calls a day about children being exposed to prescription opioids.
"We knew that we were in the middle of an opioid epidemic across the country - certainly in central Ohio, where we're located", said study author Dr. Marcel Casavant, who is chief of toxicology at Nationwide Children's Hospital and medical director of the Central Ohio Poison Center in Columbus. Here too, medical and non-medical use of the drugs declined between 2013 and 2015. Additionally, children aged zero to five years accounted for nearly 90 percent of buprenorphine exposures during the study. And while pediatric exposure to most prescription painkillers has declined, exposure to buprenorphine continues to climb.
Speaking to Vocativ on Monday, Casavant was hard-pressed to explain why childhood buprenorphine exposure is on the rise.
The researchers found out that the drugs oxycodone (OxyContin) and oxycodone plus acetaminophen (Percocet) were the ones which were included in numerous opioid abuse cases where children overdosed. Even still, Casavant said that even when parents removed a buprenorphine-containing medication from a child's mouth quickly, they would still have to call poison control because the child would be exhibiting symptoms of opiate overdose. "We do see these poisoning situations interrupted, and yet the children go on to have symptoms".
"By far, buprenorphine is much safer than methadone, particularly for the folks that have been addicted to opiates and have that kind of tolerance".
The researchers report in the journal Pediatrics online March 20 that opioid exposures among children and adolescents rose about 86 percent between 2000 and 2009 and then fell somewhat between 2009 and 2015. Regarding opioids, he says, "We need to lock these up". Hopefully, this downward trend will continue into the future as parents get the message about keeping unsafe prescription drugs away from children.
Almost 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. They also said physicians need to be more discriminate about handing out prescriptions. "And children get respiratory depression where they decrease breathing or even stop breathing". "I think manufacturers can help with that with the education they provide, both with the package labels and the handouts they give with the medicine".