Drugs Used to Combat Opioid Addiction Are Winding up in Children’s Hands

Opioid addiction is on the rise and with addiction comes the prescription drugs to combat it. Burprenorphine is one of the most common drugs used to treat opioid addiction, according to a recent medical article. In fact, the number of patients being prescribed burprenorphine has swelled 444-fold in the last decade compared to providers actually prescribing it, which was only 67-fold, according to information by the Utah Controlled Substance Database.

As more prescription drugs are making their way into American homes, the chances for children to be exposed to them is higher than ever. A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addressed the importance of educating patients about their prescriptions, their affects on children and how to properly store them. Researchers with the Utah Poison Control Center, Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Family Preventive Health and the Utah Department of Health are urging medical professionals to take all precautions necessary to keep their patients informed.

While burprenorphine prescriptions increased so did the number of accidental exposures. The UPCC reported than there was an average of 36 exposures to children from 2009 to 2011. Most of the cases involved children ages six years and under. In many cases, the children required medical attention and even treatment at a medical facility. In a few rare cases, the exposure to burprenorphine proved fatal, killing two adults and one teenager.

Death is a very real consequence but not a common one. Children who ingest burprenorphine could experience delayed or persistent respiratory depression for at least 24 hours or more. Drowsiness, miosis, agitation and tachycardia are some of the effects a child under six years old could suffer. But a child doesn’t have to swallow the tablet to feel its affects. Just sucking on the burprenorphine can actually create a faster absorption than if ingested.