Opioid Policies and Pediatrics: When the Pendulum Swings Children Will Get Hurt

Mike Greenwald, MD
mgreenw @emory.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you have turned off all news sources over the past 2 years it would be hard to escape the urgent alarms regarding opioid misuse in the US. The statistics are remarkable.

  • Since 1999, overdose deaths involving opioids quadrupled.1
  • 2000-2015:greater than half a million people died from drug overdoses.
  • 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
  • 1999 to 2010: number of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled.2,3

This is compelling evidence that we have a problem – perhaps some more than others.  Opioid addiction is a frequent challenge for those caring for adults in the Emergency Department with some centers (e.g. rural) seeing more of this than others. Those who care for injured and ill children are left with 2 important questions: (1) What is the evidence regarding opioid addiction in children? (2) To what extent is the management of acute pain in children contributing to an increase in opioid related morbidity and mortality?

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