Increased opioid abuse leads to more ED visits

September 1, 2016

From 2006 to 2012, patients aged younger than 18 years made more than 21,928 visits to emergency departments (EDs) for poisoning by prescription opioids, such as methadone, codeine, meperidine, or morphine.

From 2006 to 2012, patients aged younger than 18 years made more than 21,928 visits to emergency departments (EDs) for poisoning by prescription opioids, such as methadone, codeine, meperidine, or morphine. According to an analysis of data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, about 62% of these visits were for unintentional overdoses, with the remaining proportion for intentional abuse, either for recreational purposes or for self-harm. Although patients were distributed almost equally between sexes, significantly more females than males were treated for intentional overdoses (31.2% vs 16.8%). And, not surprisingly, most visits in the youngest age group (0-5 years) were for unintentional overdoses, while those in the adolescent age group (15-17 years) were largely intentional.

Next: Fecal Bacteroides are linked to bronchiolitis

About 65% of youngsters with unintentional poisonings were released from the ED after treatment, whereas patients with intentional poisoning were far more likely to be admitted. A total of 11 patients died, and 39 required mechanical ventilation (Tadros A, et al. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2016;42[5]:550-555).

Commentary: It should not be a surprise that increasing recreational use of opioids has led to a spike in ED visits among those who use the drugs. It is good to remember, however, that having more households containing opioids leads to having more accidental ingestions, especially among young children in these homes. -Michael G Burke, MD

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.