CHICAGO — Pediatric patients testing positive for opioid addiction or dependency are on the rise, according to a new study, and doctors are warning that the problem has become a national crisis.
After a retrospective analysis of data recorded between 2008 and 2013 from the National Emergency Department Sample, researchers found that more than 100 children test positive for opioid addiction or dependency every day in the US. In total, the number of emergency room visits by patients under the age of 21 for any reason who were found to have a dependency on or addiction to opioids — drugs ranging from illicit substances like heroin to prescription pain pills — increased from 32,235 in 2008 to 49,626 in 2013.
“It was very concerning to see that by the last year we studied, an average of 135 children each day were testing positive for opioid addiction or dependency in emergency departments,” says Veerajalandhar Allareddy, one of the study’s authors and medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, in a media release. “In our opinion, this is a pediatric public health crisis.”
Children living in high-income households were also more likely to be hospitalized after an ER visit rather than discharged, and uninsured patients were less likely to be hospitalized.
“This was intended to be an exploratory study,” explains Allareddy, “one that we hope will help alert the public, researchers, and policymakers of the need to fully define and address this important, emerging public health problem among children in the United States.”
The study was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2017 National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago and published in the journal Pediatric Research on August 2, 2017.