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Prescription drug abuse

Adult prescription use directly linked to poisoning of children: Study

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: prescription drug abuse, child poisoning, medication exposure

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(NaturalNews) Drugs are harming and killing American children at an astounding rate these days - no, not "street" drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, but rather pharmaceutical drugs like statins and opioid painkillers. And a recent study found that these same pharmaceuticals, which are intended for adult use, are now a leading cause of poisoning among young children.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study revealed that prescription drugs intended for adults often make it into the hands of young children, particularly those five years of age and younger, and between ages 13 and 19. In the former group, it is typically accidental discovery that is to blame, while in the latter group, intentional misuse is a common cause.

But in both cases, the end result is still typically a trip to the emergency room, or in a worst-case scenario, death. And the number of children falling victim to pharmaceutical poisonings is on the rise, thanks to increased drug use among adults, many of whom are signing up for new drugs at the behest of their doctors or because of widespread direct-to-consumer television advertising.

"Annually, more than 70,000 kids 18 and under go to hospital emergency departments because of unintentional medication exposures and poisonings," writes Michelle Healy for USA Today about the new study. "Between 2001 and 2008, the rate of visits increased by 30 percent; the rate of hospitalizations increased by 36 percent."

To come to this conclusion, investigators looked at data compiled and reported by the American Association of Poison Control Centers for its National Poison Data System. The data spanned between 2000 and 2009, and looked particularly at drugs prescribed mainly to adults, while omitting antidepressants and other dangerous drugs that are commonly prescribed to children.

What was discovered is that children under age five are most at risk from poisoning due to accidental ingestion. These young ones typically find an open prescription bottle, or perhaps a pill on the ground or in their mothers' purses, and eat it. For the older age group, prescription opioids are intentionally taken to relieve pain or to achieve a high.

"Pediatricians should consult parents of patients on storing medications, focusing on how exposures vary based on the child's age and intention," wrote the authors in their study. "Physicians prescribing drugs to adults should also be aware of the potential risk of exposures to children and provide guidance accordingly."

Legal pharmaceutical drugs at least three times more dangerous than illegal street drugs

The figures reveal once again that pharmaceutical drugs are a much bigger threat to children than common street drugs like marijuana, for instance, which has never been implicated in directly causing serious injury or death. It also corresponds with earlier studies on pharmaceutical drug safety, one of which revealed that prescription drugs kill 300 percent more Americans than illegal drugs do.

"According to the latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood poisoning deaths increased 80 percent between 2000 and 2009, and prescription drugs accounted for 57 percent of the increase," writes David DiSalvo for Forbes about a CDC drug study released last year.

"According to the CDC, prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the U.S. in 2008, more than three times the number killed by the same drugs in 1999."

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