Malicious Use of Drugs Affects Dozens of Children Annually

More than 1,400 cases reported in children under 7 from 2000 to 2008; about 1 percent died
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- About 160 young children are victims of deliberate, malicious exposure to drugs and alcohol each year in the United States, according to research published online July 21 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Shan Yin, M.D., of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, conducted a retrospective database study of all pharmaceutical exposures in children under the age of 7 reported to the U.S. National Poison Data System (NPDS) as malicious exposures.

The researchers found that, during the period of 2000 to 2008, 1,439 cases were reported; the median age of the child was 2 years and the mean number of cases annually was 160. Of the 1,244 cases with recorded outcomes, 172 resulted in a moderate or major outcome or death; death occurred in 1.2 percent of the cases, nearly all of which were from sedating drugs, including antihistamines and opioid narcotics. In 51 percent of cases, there was exposure to at least one sedating agent, and the other most common major pharmaceutical categories reported were analgesics, stimulants and street drugs, cough and cold medications, and ethanol.

"In our study cohort, 1.2 percent of cases resulted in a fatality compared with 0.004 percent of all exposures in children <6 years of age reported to NPDS in 2007, which is a 300-fold difference. These exposures are resulting in more severe outcomes than general pediatric poison exposures as would likely be expected with malicious poisoning," the author writes.

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