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More children going to East Tennessee Children's Hospital for opioid overdose

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - The number of children admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled since 2004, according to a new study.

The study in the journal Pediatrics looked at children between the ages one and 17 who were admitted to hospitals and pediatric intensive care units with opioid-related diagnoses from 2004 to 2015. Researchers found that the number of children admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose nearly doubled to 1,504 patients between 2012 and 2015, from 797 patients between 2004 and 2007.

The study said nearly 20 percent of ingestions were of methadone. Methadone is prescribed for the treatment of opioid withdrawal symptoms and also as a pain killer.

Doctors at East Tennessee Children's Hospital are also seeing a startling trend. Dr. Joe Childs, the chief medical officer, said it feels they hardly get through a week without a child coming in for an opioid overdose.

He said doctors have used the lifesaving reversal drug called naloxone at least 50 times in the last 12 months.

"They need a continuous antidote for hours to sometimes even a couple of days," he said.

The study found hospitalizations were most common among kids aged 12 to 17 and under six. Researchers said many likely overdosed after stumbling upon their parents' medication.

However, Dr. Childs said his hospital is seeing an equal number of teenagers and toddlers and most end up in the intensive care unit.

"It's the teenagers who may be struggling with issues in their life that are stressful or causing them pain and sometimes to alleviate that pain they'll overdose on medications," he said.

Deborah Crouse with Metro Drug Coalition said this is just another reminder to keep pills in a locked box or locked cabinet.

"Treat your medications like you would treat a loaded gun," said Crouse.

It's an important measure to take because doctors said it can take 20 to 30 minutes before a child's body becomes extremely depressed.


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