New drug buprenorphine helps opiate addicts. It is safe and effective and it is being more widely used but the problem is an increase in the accidental exposure of this drug to children. These kids are at serious risk for injury or death, according to researchers at the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC), U School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Preventive Health, and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).
A study that was published in December 2012 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly warned physicians to carefully educate their patients about the proper storage and use of buprenorphine. Any child who ingests buprenorphine can become extremely sick so it is critical that patients prescribed this drug understand how dangerous it can be for children and how to properly store it.
Children don’t have the same system as adults
Children that are exposed to buprenorphine are at risk for delayed and persistent respiratory depression for more than 24 hours following ingestion. In children younger than six years old there is a risk for drowsiness, vomiting, miosis (contraction of the pupil), agitation, tachycardia (abnormally fast heartbeat), and respiratory depression.
A UDOH analysis of data from the Utah Controlled Substance Database shows that since 2002 the number of Utah patients prescribed buprenorphine has increased 444-fold while the number of providers prescribing the drug increased 67-fold.
The result is that the number of accidental exposures to buprenorphine has also increased 13-fold and averaged 36 a year from 2009-2011. These children that were exposed required evaluation and treatment at a health care facility. Three people died from accidental exposure to buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine can help adult addicts, it is not meant for children.
Accidental exposures can be avoided by keeping buprenorphine in a locked box, bag, or cabinet for safe storage out of sight and out of reach of children, keeping buprenorphine in its original, labeled prescription container with child-resistant closure, and by throwing away the package immediately after use. If a child is exposed to buprenorphine call the Poison Control Center immediately. Be aware of your prescribed medication. No one wants to lose a child to drugs because of leaving them in their hands reach.