Emergency department visits by pediatric patients for poisoning by prescription opioids

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Background—Prescription medication abuse is an increasingly recognized problem in the United States. As more opioids are being prescribed and abused by adults, there is an increased risk of both accidental and intentional exposure to children and adolescents. The impact of pediatric exposures to prescription pain pills has not been well studied. Objectives—We sought to evaluate emergency department (ED) visits for poisoning by prescription opioids in pediatric patients. Methods—This retrospective study looked at clinical and demographic data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) from 2006 – 2012. Results—There were 21,928 pediatric ED visits for prescription opioid poisonings and more than half were unintentional. There was a bimodal age distribution of patients with slightly more than half occurring in females. The majority of patients were discharged from the ED. More visits in the younger age group (0–5 years) were unintentional while the majority of visits in the adolescent age group (15–17 years) were intentional. Mean charge per discharge was $1,840 and $14,235 for admissions and surmounted to over $81 million in total charges. Conclusion—Poisonings by prescription opioids largely impact both young children and adolescents. These findings can be used to help target this population for future preventive efforts.