Study Analyzes Pediatric Opioid Exposures

Using data from the National Poison Data System, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics examined the more than 188,000 reported exposures to prescription opioids among children and adolescents younger than 20 years old between 2000 and 2015. The study found that healthcare facility (HCF) admission occurred in 8.7 percent and 21.5 percent of exposures among children aged 0-5 years and teenagers, respectively, while serious outcomes were more frequent among teenagers. Highlights from the report included:

  • The annual number and rate of exposures increased early in the study period but declined after 2009, except for buprenorphine exposures, which increased during the last three years of the study;
  • Hydrocodone accounted for the largest proportion of exposures (28.7 percent), and 47.1 percent of children exposed to buprenorphine were admitted to an HCF;
  • Children aged 0-5 years accounted for almost 90 percent of buprenorphine exposures;
  • The odds of being admitted to an HCF were higher for teenagers than for children aged 0-5 years; and
  • The rate of prescription opioid-related suspected suicides among teenagers increased by 52.7 percent during the study period.

The study concluded that greater efforts are needed to prevent opioid exposure to children of all ages, while particular attention should be paid to buprenorphine exposures among young children, which frequently result in HCF admission and are not declining in frequency.