MONDAY, December 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) – A growing number of young children overdose on stimulant drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study.
Researchers called for more efforts to identify children at risk for overdose and for more education on the safe storage of prescription and over-the-counter medications for parents and caregivers.
“The prescription of stimulants is on the rise among young people, and as more and more prescribed stimulants are in the public, the risk of abuse is greater among all populations,” said study author Douglas. Roehler, epidemiologist with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to better understand effective interventions for young people at risk of stimulant overdose.
For the study, Roehler’s team examined records of nearly 90 million emergency room visits for non-fatal overdoses that occurred over three years in American children in three age groups: 0 to 10; 11 to 14; and 15 to 24 years old. All age groups experienced an increase in non-fatal stimulant overdoses, 3.3%, 4% and 2.3%, respectively. In the study, suspected stimulant overdoses included both prescribed drugs and illicit stimulants such as cocaine.
“Researchers have seen an increase in stimulant-related deaths since at least 2016. These studies found this in young people aged 15 to 24, so it was striking to see non-fatal stimulant overdoses among our younger populations.” , said Roehler.
There was a 2% increase in overdoses of all drugs, including opioids, heroin and stimulants, among the youngest group, and a 2.3% increase in children aged 11 to 14 years old, according to the results.
Still, the study authors cautioned, these overdoses are relatively rare. Specifically, 22.3 in 10,000 emergency room visits for children aged 0 to 10 years were for suspected drug overdose, as were 43.2 in 10,000 for children aged 11 to 14. Among those aged 15 to 24, there were an average of 85.2 overdoses for every 10,000 emergency room visits, according to the report.
The study offered a glimmer of hope. Non-fatal heroin overdoses decreased by 3.3% per quarter among young people aged 15 to 24 during the study period. These results reflect national trends, which show a significant drop in heroin overdose deaths among 15 to 24 year olds between 2016 and 2017, the researchers noted, but other experts point out that stimulant overdoses are most likely the most likely. prescription drug result. left out and / or improperly stored.
“Children frequently get these drugs from their own homes, and parents may not know how to store or lock them away,” said Dr. Dean Drosnes, medical director of Caron Treatment Centers, an addiction rehabilitation program with several. centers across the United States. “In young children, these are almost exclusively accidental overdoses,” he said.
The big picture is undeniable, he added. “When you see these numbers, they’re unassailable. These trends are real,” Drosnes said.
“Pediatricians need to screen for drug abuse, recognize it and get kids to the right place so they can get the help they need and not end up in an emergency room,” Drosnes said. Right now, many children are not getting the help they need. Only about a third of young people who go to the emergency room for a suspected overdose will receive drug treatment, and the prevalence is even lower among children who overdose on heroin, according to information cited in the new study.
Still, this study doesn’t mean stimulant drugs are too risky to be prescribed, warned Dr. Scott Krakower, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, NY.
“Stimulant drugs have quite a large beneficial effect and this should not be overlooked as they are extremely effective in improving ADHD symptoms,” Krakower said. When left untreated, ADHD symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, sitting down and / or controlling impulsive behaviors can cause problems at school, at work, and in relationships. he noted.
“Parents need to watch the pills and make sure that proper safety measures are in place, as stimulants are rarely bought on the street,” Krakower said.
The new study has its share of limitations. For starters, researchers only had access to the primary complaint on the records, not the final diagnosis. It also did not capture overdoses treated in emergency care facilities or emergency departments that do not report their data to the CDC’s national syndromic surveillance program.
The report was published online on December 7 in Pediatrics.
There is help for drug addiction in the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse.
SOURCES: Douglas Roehler, PhD, epidemiologist, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Dean Drosnes, MD, medical director, Caron Treatment Centers; Scott Krakower, DO, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, NY; Pediatrics, December 7, 2020, online