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Opioids are the Leading Cause of Childhood Intoxication Deaths

Opioides, la principal causa de muerte infantil por intoxicación, EFE

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Opioids are the leading contributors to poisoning deaths among children 5 years of age and younger in the U.S., followed by over-the-counter medications for colds, aches and pains, says a report in the Pediatrics journal published Wednesday.

The study, led by Christopher Gaw of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, found that opioids accounted for 52.2% of substances contributing to deaths in 2018, up from 24.1% in 2005.

During the analyzed period, 731 poisoning-related deaths of children were recorded, of which 42.1% (308) occurred in infants under one year of age and 65.1% (444 deaths) were recorded in the child’s home.

The article cites other research that has found that, over the course of the last decade, children have been exposed to new sources of opioids with the use of heroin, fentanyl and other derivatives in medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone and buprenophine.

After opioids, the most common substances contributing to poisoning deaths in children were over-the-counter drugs (14.8%), such as pain, allergy, and cold medications.

Among the 661 cases for which there is information on racial or ethnic group, there were 113 deaths of Hispanic children, or 17.1% of those deaths.

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“Fatal poisoning is a preventable cause of death among children,” researchers on Gaw’s team indicated. “We collected data from 40 states participating in the national case review and fatality reporting system.”

They noted that some medication safety initiatives, such as the adoption of unit dose packaging, have shown good results in reducing exposure, “but this does not address the situation with illicit opioids or all opioid prescriptions.”

“These data emphasize the importance of designing measures aimed at further reducing fatal poisonings,” the study concluded.