More Kids Poisoned as More Adults Medicated

As Americans get older, heavier and more out of shape, they’re being prescribed more and more medications to lower their blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure – and to treat pain. And new formulations mean medications stay in the body longer. The researchers used statistics from the National Poison Data System, and compared them to data on prescriptions written for adults using the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys for 2000 through 2009. “Increasing rates of adult drug prescriptions are strongly associated with increases in drug exposures and poisonings among children and appear to be a direct cause of exposures and poisonings,” they wrote in a report published in the journal Pediatrics. Over that time, 38,485 children took diabetes drugs that lower blood sugar; 39,693 took cholesterol-lowering medications; 49,075 took blood pressure drugs called beta-blockers, which slow heart rate, and 62,416 took opioid painkillers. Kids 5 and younger were by far the most likely to be poisoned, but 2,330 teens were treated for opioid poisoning. Opioids kill quickly, but drugs for diabetes can lower blood sugar dangerously, blood pressure medications can slow or stop the heart, and any drug overdose can cause irreversible liver or kidney damage. Antidepressants can cause deadly heart rhythm disturbances, and even over the counter painkillers can damage the liver - sometimes causing death. The data fits in with a study done in 2011 by a team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who found prescription drugs accounted for 55 percent of kids 5 and younger treated in emergency rooms for medication poisoning, and that 43 percent of the children required intensive care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 160 percent rise in unintentional poisonings from 1999 to 2009, 91 percent of them the result of a drug overdose. Child-resistant packaging just isn’t enough to protect kids, the researchers noted. Adults often don’t replace the lids on prescription bottles – and kids older than 5 can get those lids off, anyway. And no resistant packaging is going to deter a teenager bent on experimenting with a painkiller or, worse, determined to take a deliberate overdose. Everyone needs to know the number of a poison control center, to get immediate guidance if they even suspect a child has taken a prescription drug. The nationwide toll-free number for the American Association of Poison Control Centers is 1-800-222-1222. .