Opioids kill more children and teens: Study

New Delhi: A huge number of children are dying from opioid poisonings, a new study shows.

According to a recent study, nearly 9,000 pediatric deaths were attributed to opioids from 1999 through 2016. The findings are published in the journal JAMA Network Open. During that 18-year span, the mortality rate for youth due to opioid poisonings nearly tripled.

“What began more than 2 decades ago as a public health problem primarily among young and middle-aged white males is now an epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid abuse that is taking a toll on all segments of US society, including the pediatric population,” researchers noted. “Millions of children and adolescents are now routinely exposed in their homes, schools and communities to these potent and addictive drugs.”

Of the 8,986, children who died from opioid poisonings over the 18-year period, 6,567 were male and 7,921 were adolescents ranging in age from 15 to 19. Among the 15- to 19-year-olds, 3,050 deaths also involved one or more other substances, such as benzodiazepines, cocaine, alcohol or antidepressants.

Nearly 7 per cent of deaths were children ages zero to 4, about 4 per cent were 10 to 14 and about 1 per cent were ages 5 to 9. Non-Hispanic white children and adolescents made up the majority of those who died.

Prescription opioids accounted for 73 per cent of the deaths, but heroin killed nearly 1,900 of those age 15 to 19.