"Kids and Medication - What can we do?"
I am so happy you asked that question. This has always been something at the forefront of my mind and the reason I worked with the experts at VR so hard to create the NRxCM® program. However, more recently with the addition of my cutie pie grandson I cannot help but think what the average home environment is like. Medications not only impact the user they can be dangerous to the children around them. We can do many things to reduce the risk of medications/narcotics/opioids getting into the hands of our children and teens.
Let's first talk about the types of medications. Starting with one you may not find dangerous-Acetaminophen. According to the Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC - "Acetaminophen is the most common pharmaceutical involved in calls to poison control centers about infants." That is Tylenol folks. Where do you store it?
That is followed by opioids as the most common drug involved in Emergency Department visits. Statistics show 35% of child deaths are from prescription medication (Bond, 2012). According to one study, the most common medications involved in deaths in children 10 and younger were codeine (54%); oxycodone or brand name Oxycontin (32%) and methadone (15.5%) (St. Joseph Heritage Group, 2017). With that comes an ever-growing danger of a child's exposure to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil which can cause death with as little as "a few grains" (Martin, 2017). That affects everyone. As children grow older and become teens, they often seek out a parent's prescription to get high or to assist in depression and suicide. Look at this alarming statistic - "in 2012, 10.17 per 100,000 teenagers were hospitalized for opioid poisoning" (Martin 2017). Do you know someone on these medications?
Medications are not the only form for children to consume these. Everyday child snacks are now being laced with dangerous substances. A 9-year-old girl came to school with what looked like typical gummy candies, but were edibles laced with THC, one of the psychoactive chemicals found in cannabis. With medical marijuana now permitted in 29 states, and recreational marijuana legal in an additional eight, many public health officials have voiced concerns about children accidentally ingesting edibles, particularly those packaged as kid-friendly treats such as candy, brownies and cookies (Ducharme, 2018). Anyone you know?
So, what can we do?
-Lock them up - keep in a locked cabinet that requires a key.
-Ensure that bottles have child proof caps.
-Did I say, lock them up?
-Teach your children about medication safety.
-If you or your family members or friends are prescribed opioids, talk to the healthcare
prescriber about alternatives and weaning ability.
-Dispose of the unused medication properly. Do not keep "leftover" pills in your cabinet. Talk to your pharmacist about this.
What can doctors do?
-Send patients home from the hospital with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, where indicated.
-If absolutely necessary, prescribe in limited quantity and reevaluate necessity frequently.
-Have a conversation. Know their patients' family and home situation and risks of child exposure. Discuss a caretaker's role in keeping medications locked in a safe place and away from children and teens.
What can government do?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says it best (https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/what-federal-government-doing-to-combat-opioid-abuse-epidemic)
- Keep the public informed and aware of this epidemic
- "Provide primary prevention thru educational initiatives in schools and communities"
-"Support the continued use of prescription drug monitoring programs"
-Implement "overdose education and naloxone distribution programs to issue naloxone directly to opioid users and potential bystanders"
- Provide "aggressive law enforcement efforts to address doctor shopping and pill mills"
-Continue research on "abuse-deterrent formulations for opioid analgesics"
Recently, the FDA announced that it would take a stronger stance on labeling changes to cough and cold medicines which contain opioids such as codeine and hydrocodone for children less than 18 years of age. This new labeling will notify the consumer that these medications are to be used only in adult’s ages 18 years and older. Boxes will now contain a warning for all uses that will highlight the risks of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death as well as the respiratory impact that can result of exposure. Bravo FDA!
Protect our children - they deserve it!
Bond GR, Woodward RW, Ho M. The growing impact of pediatric pharmaceutical poisoning. J
Ducharme, Jamie. A 9 Year-Old Accidentally Shared her Grandpa’s Marijuana Gummies with
her Fifth-Grade Class. Time. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://time.com/5114582/thc-edibles-new-mexico/
Martin, K. (2017, July 24). US Growing danger of children overdosing from opioids. Retrieved
September 29, 2017, from https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/24/opio-j24.html
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. (2017, February 27). Kids' OD Risk Rises When Opioids
Left Out at Home. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from https://www.sjhmg.org/health- library/article/?CT=6&C=719792