September 15, 2017 07:30 GMT by dailymail.co.uk

Number of children addicted to opioids is growing

Number of children addicted to opioids is growing

A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that the number of children addicted to opioids jumped by 17,000 from 2008 to 2013.

US hospitals treat more than 100 children each day who are already addicted to opioids, an alarming new study has found.

The report, from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), looked at the number of children taken to emergency departments in US hospitals annually who are addicted, and it found that in just five years the number jumped by nearly 17,000.

In 2008, it was about 32,000 but it reached 49,626 in 2013.

And the study's researchers are worried that the figures they are reporting are most likely higher in reality, because doctors probably did not screen every child addicted to opioids during those five years. 

The new data lay bare the limitless bounds of the opioid epidemic, as experts urge parents to warn their children about trying prescription or illicit painkillers since that is how a lifelong addiction begins.

New research has found that about 135 children a day taken to ER departments in US hospitals are already addicted to opioids. Pictured: data from the report (Source: AAP)

New research has found that about 135 children a day taken to ER departments in US hospitals are already addicted to opioids. Pictured: data from the report (Source: AAP)

THE SEVERITY OF AMERICA'S OPIOID CRISIS

Last month President Trump said the opioid crisis is now a 'national emergency'.

About half a million Americans died of drug overdoses between 2000 to 2014, according to the CDC.

The opioid overdose death rate for people of all ages hit an all time high in 2014.

The increases in deaths related to prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin are the 'biggest driver of the drug overdose epidemic,' according to the CDC.

These are the center's tips for stopping the epidemic:

  • Law enforcement agencies need to work together with public health agencies and medical examiners to improve the response to outbreaks of illegal opioid overdoses
  • There should be an expansion of access to naloxone - a drug that reverses the symptoms caused by an opioid overdose and saves lives - for people with opioid use disorder
  • Access to substance use disorder treatments that are evidence based should be expanded 

The AAP researchers who worked on the study were not expecting results as startling as their conclusions. They found that in 2008 about 85 children taken to the hospital each day were addicted to opioids, and that number spiked to 135 in 2013.

This study comes on the heels of CDC data that came out last month, which confirmed that in 2015 the rate of teen drug overdose deaths in the US went up for the first time since 2007.

Dr Veerajalandhar Allareddy, who worked on the study, said that - even though he was prepared for the worst - the results floored him.

'We thought we'd find some (more) cases in children but we were taken aback by the magnitude,' he said. He went on to explain that the research does not even fully capture the scope of the problem.

Dr Allareddy said that emergency rooms do not screen children for opioid addictions unless a doctor seeing them suspects that they have a problem.  But many times, he said, children who do have addictions do not get screened.

As a result, Dr Allareddy said that the research probably does not represent the severity of the situation.

'It's gotta be much bigger than this,' he said, adding that the figures published today are only 'skimming the surface' of the issue.

Dr Allareddy said that every child taken to the ER should be screened for addictions, even if doctors do not suspect they have a problem. He said: 'Every kid should be asked really basic questions' that can lead to an addiction diagnosis.

Children aged 18 to 21 were most frequently addicted to opioids, Dr Allareddy explained, and he emphasized the need for parents to intervene if they think their child might be experimenting with drugs.

He said, 'If it at all is a concern, a discussion needs to happen.' Dr Allareddy also called for further research on the topic.

'This was intended to be an exploratory study - one that we hope will help alert the public, researchers and policymakers of the need to fully define and address this important, emerging public health problem among children in the US,' he said.

The study, which labeled underage opioid abuse a 'crisis', also found that children from high-income households had a higher chance of being admitted to the hospital when taken to the ER.

And, conversely, uninsured patients were less likely to be admitted, instead being routinely discharged more frequently.

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