Between 2001 and 2008, the number of children 5 years old or younger admitted to the emergency room due to poisoning from pharmaceuticals increased 36 percent, according to a new study [PDF]. This pales in comparison to the 8 percent increase in population of the age group. Ingestion of drugs during this period caused 43 percent more kids to be injured, defined as a reaction requiring a medical treatment, to a permanent disability, or death. In all, 90 kids died from unintentional overdose or misuse of medications.
Researchers say that pharmaceutical poisoning of children, especially from prescription medications, is a growing problem that continues to get worse every year. But why? The most likely reason, they suggest, is the overall increase in use of prescription drugs by adolescents and adults, which children can come across and ingest without knowing the consequences. For example, the number of kids injured by opioid pain medications almost doubled during the study, a period when prescriptions for the strong painkillers oxycodone (present in OxyContin and Percocet) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) increased 182 and 159 percent, respectively.