MESA COUNTY, Colo. – The number of children and teens dying from opioid poisonings has nearly tripled in the last decade. That’s according to a new medical study from JAMA that shows how adult medications are impacting the youth.
“For the pediatric world, it’s one of the biggest issues that we’re having to deal with,” says Dr. Jonathan Hathaway, of Grand Valley Pediatrics.
The study shows a 225% increase in opioid related deaths in children from ages 0-4. The study was done from 1999-2016 where 8,986 kids and teens died.
“We see a lot of toddlers that come into the ER where they got into mom or grandma’s medicines that were left out,” says Hathaway.
Many of these deaths were accidents, which Dr. Hathaway hears and sees too often.
“Most likely it’s going to be that something was left around unattended pills were dropped or they got into a medicine cabinet,” says Hathaway.
The idea of tricking kids into taking medicine by telling them it’s candy can also backfire.
“I try to encourage parents not to that because they will think that medicine can be candy and try to go out and seek them out and get into the medicine cabinet,” says Hathaway.
88% of the 8,986 kids that died were teenagers aging from 15-19 years old.
“This year the Healthy Kids Colorado survey did ask high schoolers for the first time whether or not they had ever used a pain prescription drug and we had 16% of our high school students say that they had,” says Katie Nelson of Mesa County Public Health. “It may be easy to think my child won’t do this, or my kiddos won’t get into my medicine cabinet that sort of thing but it happens.”
Protecting your child comes in many forms, including being responsible with your medicine.
“I do consider them preventable accidents because you can secure those types of medication in a locked cabinet or where the kids can’t get to them,” says Dr. Hathaway.
Disposing of your medicine correctly can also help with the issue. If you have medicine to dispose of you can drop it off at Canyon View Pharmacy, St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Marshall’s Office in DeBeque, and the Walgreens Pharmacy in Grand Junction.