Opioid overdoses among children and teens have tripled since 1997, study finds

by Michael Heygood

A new study published by the Yale School of Medicine has found that the number of children and teenagers hospitalized for an opioid painkiller overdose has tripled over recent years. This alarming rise in the number of accidental overdoses caused by opioid drugs is part of a growing trend of adverse health consequences caused by prescription painkillers in the U.S.

The Yale opioids study was published last month in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers in the study analyzed hospital records from 1997 to 2012 and compared rates of opioid poisonings with census data in order to determine the rate at which hospitalizations were occurring.

According to the study, opioid overdoses among children 1-4 years old increased by 205% between 1997 and 2012. Researchers said that the majority of overdoses among children 10 years of age or younger were accidental cases in which children ate opioid pills “like candy.” Among children 15-19 years old, opioid overdoses increased by 176%. The majority of these overdoses were accidental, the study’s authors wrote, although some were suicide attempts.

Increase in Overdoses among Children and Teens Fueled by U.S. Opioid Epidemic

The researchers behind the study say that the increase in the number of opioid overdoses among children and teenagers is due in part to the explosion of opioid prescriptions that have been issued in the U.S. over the last 20 years. As opioid use has become more widespread, prescription painkillers have become more common in U.S. homes, increasing the likelihood that they can be accidentally ingested by children or abused recreationally by teens.

The widespread availability of many opioid painkiller brands in the U.S. has led to a dramatic increase in the number of fatal overdoses caused by these medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 Americans died in the U.S. during 2014 as a result of an opioid overdose.

Health experts say that there is a direct correlation between the increased frequency of opioid painkiller prescriptions and hospitalizations caused by these drugs among children and teens. “The only reason opioid poisoning is increasing among children is because opioid prescriptions are increasing among adults,” says Dr. Barbara Pena at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida.

Health experts advise parents to store opioid medications in areas where children or teens cannot access them in order to help reduce the risk of an accidental opioid overdose. However, health experts also say that having doctors talk about properly storing opioid drugs may be an ineffective solution given the rate at which opioids are prescribed in the U.S. and the long list of topics that doctors must already review with patients.

Recently, the CDC has started to push doctors to lower the volumes at which they prescribe opioid drugs. The agency says that many doctors prescribe more pain pills than most patients need to treat short term pain, leading unused opioid pills to end up stored in the medicine cabinet, where they can be found by children or teens.

Prescription Painkiller Overdose Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

Each year, thousands of Americans are hospitalized as a result of an opioid painkiller overdose. In many cases, these overdoses occur due to the aggressive marketing of opioid medications by the pharmaceutical industry. Other overdose cases may involve the prescription of opioids by a physician for conditions that they were not approved to treat, or in combination with other drugs that can increase the chances of an overdose.

If you or a loved one have suffered an opioid overdose, or if you experienced other serious complications caused by these drugs, you may be eligible to take legal actions against the drug company that manufactured your medication or the doctor or hospital who prescribed the drug. The first step in filing a lawsuit is to consult with a lawyer who can advise you regarding your rights and to guide you through the process of filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed more lawsuits on behalf of patients injured by the fentanyl products than all other law firms in the country—combined. Our firm has also represented numerous patients in cases involving complications caused by other opioid drugs. The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are committed to helping patients who have been harmed by the aggressive marketing of opioids by drugmakers and the overprescription of these drugs by some doctors.

For more information opioid painkillers lawsuits and to learn whether you may qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions to get started.

by Michael Heygood

Michael Heygood is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses on insurance and corporate litigation, and other civil arenas. Michael has been named multiple times to the Super Lawyers List.