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Opioid overdoses send more US kids to hospitals

CHICAGO (AP)  Opioid poisonings and overdoses are sending increasing numbers of U.S. children and teens to the hospital, according to a study showing a substantial rise in young patients needing critical care.

The study included accidental poisonings along with overdoses from intentional use. Prescription painkillers were most commonly involved, but heroin, methadone and other opioid drugs also were used.

Hospitalizations were most common among kids aged 12-17 and those aged 1 to 5.

The youngest kids typically found parents' medications or illicit drugs and used them out of curiosity, said Dr. Jason Kane, the lead author and an associate pediatrics professor at the University of Chicago and Comer Children's Hospital.

Reasons for the increases are unclear but it could be that drugs became more widely available and potent during the study years, Kane said.

"Opioids can depress your drive to breathe," Kane said, and they also may cause blood pressure to plummet to dangerously low levels. Treatment for these symptoms includes ventilators and powerful drugs that constrict blood vessels. Naloxone, the "rescue' drug used that can revive overdose patients who've stopped breathing, was used in nearly one-third of cases during the 2004-15 study.

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