You would think that most parents are smart enough to know that their prescription medications' "keep out of reach of children" warning isn't to be taken lightly, but maybe not. Doctors are reporting an increase in incidences of children being brought to the hospital after getting into their moms' and dads' pill stashes. Not so coincidentally, this trend of poisoned kids also correlates with more and more adults being prescribed medication for their daily physical and mental ailments.
Using statistics from the National Poison Data System and the data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys (which looks at trends in prescriptions written for adults) for 2000 through 2009, Dr. Lindsey Burghardt and Dr. Florence Bourgeois — who both work at the Boston Children's Hospital where they noticed they were treating a growing number of of kids for poisoning — determined that “Increasing rates of adult drug prescriptions are strongly associated with increases in drug exposures and poisonings among children and appear to be a direct cause of exposures and poisonings.”
From NBC News:
[From 2000-2009], 38,485 children took diabetes drugs that lower blood sugar; 39,693 took cholesterol-lowering medications; 49,075 took blood pressure drugs called beta-blockers, which slow heart rate, and 62,416 took opioid painkillers. Kids 5 and younger were by far the most likely to be poisoned, but 2,330 teens were treated for opioid poisoning, and they very likely took the drugs on purpose, Burghardt says.
The US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a 160% rise in unintentional poisonings from 1999 to 2009, with the vast majority of them being the result of a drug overdose.
The four types of drug classes most commonly found in cases of poisoning are opiods (which kill the quickest), bloody pressure medication (which can stop the heart) drugs for diabetes (which can dangerously lower blood sugar) and any type of drug that resulted in lasting kidney or liver damage. Children under 5 were at the greatest risk for poisoning by medications, followed by children 13-19 (though, as previously mentioned, the older age group is more likely to take the pills intentionally).
In many of the cases, the children found the loose or poorly protected prescription pills while at the house of a relative or family acquaintance. Let this be a serious warning — if you're having kids over to your home, do a sweep and make sure that you've properly hidden your 'scripts.
Dr. Lindsey Burghardt and Dr. Florence Bourgeois research appeared in a report written for the journal Pediatrics.
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