Yale: prescription opioid poisonings nearly double among children

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NEW HAVEN--A new study conducted by Yale-New Haven Hospital shows hospitalization rates for prescription opioid poisonings in children have nearly doubled in recent years.

The research, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, reviewed hospital discharge records over a 16-year period from 1997-2012. Researchers found the most dramatic uptick among toddlers ages 1 through 4, with rates more than doubling.

Poisonings overall increased nearly twofold. Teens ages 15 through 19 were hospitalized more frequently than any other youth age group.

Dr. Julie Gaither, the study's lead author, is urging parents to be careful with their medications. "Keep them locked up, stored away, in the original containers they came in," said Gaither.

Gaither said prescription opioids are in an estimated 259 million American homes, providing more opportunities for young children to accidentally ingest the pills. "They're either finding medications on the floor, countertop [or] in their mother's purse," said Gaither.

New Haven Police see their fair share of prescription drug use around the city, even with teens.

"We've actually seen younger gang members who were shot and given prescription pain medication and then, in turn, ended up being addicted to heroin," said Sgt. Carl Jacobson with the department's Criminal Intel Unit.

Guilford resident Sue Kruczek lost her 20-year-old son Nick, a star hockey player at Daniel Hand High School, to heroin in October 2013.

"A teammate tossed him a little white pill right before the start of his very first game," said Kruczek. Kruczek's son took Oxycodone throughout high school before moving to heroin. He sought treatment, but eventually relapsed.

Kruczek does not know who gave her son his first pill, but believes she knows where it came from. "I'm willing to bet that most people can go into their parents' medicine cabinets and help themselves," said Kruczek.

She also urges parents to keep prescription medications in lock boxes to minimize the risk for their children.