Huge Increase in Kids and Teens Hospitalized From Opioid Abuse in Last 16 Years

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Jill Chadwick

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            More American children are showing up in hospitals from overdoses of opioids according to a study just published in JAMA Pediatrics. The study found the number of kids who received emergency treatment for a drug overdose more than doubled in the last 16 years. In the last four years, The University of Kansas Hospital has seen a 42 percent increase in opioid poisonings in children 18 and under in both the emergency department and referrals from its Poison Control Center.

            “Some overdoses are accidental, such as when kids find opioids in a medicine cabinet or on a countertop, and sometimes the drugs are taken on purpose,” said Dr. Stephen Thornton, a toxicologist and medical director of the Poison Control Center at The University of Kansas Hospital.

            In the video, Dr. Thornton says more people die of poisonings annually than car accidents and a majority of the poisonings are related to prescription pain killers.  Dr. Thornton talks about the epidemic, and the new, stricter guidelines issued by the Centers For Disease Control on how to prescribe opioids for chronic pain. Also in the video is b-roll of various opioid medications from the pharmacy.

            Many people wonder whether there’s a safe way to dispose of prescription medicines when they’re no longer needed, especially if there are children in the home. The outpatient pharmacy at The University of Kansas Hospital offers a safe and secure way of disposing of unwanted, unused or expired medications any time of the year.  A blue MedSafe medication disposal box was installed in the hospital’s outpatient pharmacy and at the pharmacy at the KU Cancer Center at the Westwood campus. The receptacle’s one-way drop door is open to accept medications during the pharmacy’s normal hours of operation, which are Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and weekends, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Video of the MedSafe containers is included. 

            Also in the video, Brandon Walker, operations manager of The University of Kansas Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy, explains how the system works, the environmental benefits, how patient information is protected, the types of medications accepted and items that are not accepted.