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Where are the kids and youth getting all those pain pills they overdose on?

Great question. Primarily from medications belonging to their own parents, grandparents, and other adults, from a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, September 2008. As we know this category of drug use his risen to the number one spot. There are frightening facts about small children dying from overdoses. On October 20, 2008 MSNBC reported that prescription opiates are responsible for the surge in accidental overdose deaths and injuries among children under 6. The exposures ranged from a pill taken from a child’s mouth to ingestion, with disability and death as possibilities. A dose appropriate for an adult would be too much for a child, even if this medication type were required. Prescribers consider a number of factors when deciding to use an opiate, and none of that is present when a medication is diverted for use by a person to which it was not prescribed.

Richard Dart of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, co-author of the study, reported that about half of the child overdoses occur in “complicated” households, which are defined as having a number of adults living together, or members of the household having a history of drug use or child neglect. However, the other half occurred in “competent” households.

So, what do we do? Information and education! We stress the importance of the individual being able to safeguard his/her medications at home. Be aware that youth may have access to opiates at friend’s homes or at parties. Be aware that many teens begin to use in cars and with peers. Many communities are concerned about the wide availability of prescription opiate medication that is not being secured. The stories you hear about teens raiding the parent’s medicine cabinet are not just stories. Trouble with opiate use? Call a professional with credentials in addiction. Learn more by watching WYNK flash videos and going to SAMHSA for articles.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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