Nationally, poisonings of youth from opioids rose 165% from 1997 to 2012, 205% among those aged 1 to 4

More than 13,000 Americans age 19 and under were hospitalized for opioid poisonings from 1997 to 2012, says a study at the Yale School of Medicine, published in JAMA Pediatrics. The incident rate rose from 1.4 per 100,000 people in 1997 to 3.7 per 100,000 in 2012, an increase of 165 percent. The study found that 176 of the victims died during hospitalization. (Yale graphic: Hospitalizations for opioid poisonings for people under 20 from 1997-2012)

The study, which analyzed U.S. pediatric hospital discharge records every three years from Jan. 1, 1997, through Dec. 31, 2012, found 13,052 instances of opioid poisoning for people between the ages of 1 to 19. Hospitalization rates were highest in older adolescents 15 to 19—they increased from 3.69 per 100,000 to 10.17 per 100,000—but the largest increase was among toddlers, with incidences among those 1 to 4 years old increasing 205 percent, from 0.86 to 2.62 per 100,000, for a total of 1,531.

Epidemiologist Julie R. Gaither, the study’s lead author, said research points to the likelihood that the majority of incidences among those 1 to 4 were accidental, from children getting into drugs prescribed to their parents, Ariana Eunjung Cha reports for The Washington Post. There were few cases of poisonings among those 5 to 9, with researchers saying children at these ages were able to tell the difference between candy and a dangerous drug. But once children hit 10, incident rates began to climb, and are more likely attributed to suicide or self-inflicted injury, Gaither said.

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