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More children overdose on prescriptions as use rises for adults - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

More children overdose on prescriptions as use rises amongst adults

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

Louisiana Poison Center authorities say the items under your sink used to be their top concern. Now it's your medicine cabinet.

"Most of them were in reference to home things: personal care products, fertilizers, plants cleaning products," Louisiana Poison Center's Dr. Mark Ryan said. "We saw a smaller number of pharmaceutical calls. In 2007, we saw those lines cross."

Ryan has worked with Louisiana Poison Control more than twenty years. He says 20% of the group's roughly 88,000 calls a year come from hospitals and ERs across the state. Of the calls with child-age patients, there's been a change.

"Drugs are potentially much more dangerous that licking the air freshener or taking a bite of lipstick or a cream or a lotion," Ryan said. "We're seeing more serious outcomes, and it's rather disturbing."

A study in the medical journal Pediatrics backs up Ryan's observations.

The authors analyzed exposures and poisonings reported to U.S. poison centers from 2000 to 2009 and found the rise in child poisonings during that timeframe might be linked to the higher number of prescription drugs in homes.

The study focused on four of the most common drug groups: anti-diabetic, cholesterol-lowering, blood pressure and opioid-based pain killers.

The authors write: "Adult medications were statistically significantly associated with exposures and poisonings in children of all ages, with the strongest association observed for opiods. Across medications, the greatest risk was among children 0 to 5 years old, followed by 13- to 19-year-olds."

Young children usually took the pills unintentionally during "exploratory behavior."

Amongst teenagers, ingestions were intention, for recreation or self-harm.

Related article: Why do we wait six months to dispose of old medications?

KTBS 3 News spoke with a former drug user who says his addiction would often lead him to drastic measures.

He says he misused and abused prescription pills from the ages of 14 to 30. He started by getting Adderall from friends but within years got hooked on Lortab and eventually took everything from Xanax and Valium to ecstasy and cocaine.

When he couldn't buy prescriptions from friends, schoolmates, and coworkers... he took them.

"If I got in a place where I had been on it for awhile and got desperate, I would steal if from people, absolutely," he said.

Now clean and helping others turn their lives around, he says it's a common story.

"They [teenaged users] will get them from their friends or their parents so long as they don't get busted," he said. "If they're really going to abuse it, then they'll take to other measures. Some parents are totally aware of it. Other parentS are- you know- oblivious to it. They say, 'That's my little angel. He or she won't ever do that.'"

The Pediatrics study found opioid exposures far exceeded other drugs among teenagers.

It's a dangerous habit with deadly results.

Drug exposure death rates have more than tripled in the United States since 1990, with more than 75% of these deaths attributed to opioids.

The Caddo/Shreveport Narcotics Unit says their confiscation numbers mirror the higher household presence.

In 2011, the unit confiscated 1,008 pills in street busts. That number rose slightly to 1,059 in 2012 and reached 1,153 last year.

Authorities say these were just the pills taken in street-level arrests and do not include pills confiscated by other units.

In the Pediatrics study, authors said an unknown number of lives were likely saved after a 1970 packaging act and a 2008 task force mandated the use of child-resistant packaging. Although these programs are effective, exposures and poisonings happen. The authors say intervention programs need to address the source: the increasing number of adult prescriptions.

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