From January 2007 through December 2016 there were more than 11,000 calls to US Poison Centers for paediatric exposures to buprenorphine, according to study published in Pediatrics.
Most (86%) of the calls were about exposures among children aged younger than 6 years. Most (98%) buprenorphine exposures among younger children were unintentional. Nearly half (45%) of the exposures resulted in the child being admitted to a healthcare facility and 21% resulted in serious medical outcomes, including 11 deaths. The most common symptoms for buprenorphine alone were drowsiness/lethargy (47%) and vomiting (17%).
While most buprenorphine exposures among younger children were unintentional, 77% of exposures among teenagers (age, 13-19 years) were intentional and 28% involved more than 1 substance. More than one-fifth of teen exposures resulted in being admitted to a healthcare facility, and 22% experienced a serious medical outcome, including 4 deaths. There were 150 suspected teen suicide attempts, 59% of which involved at least one other drug.
“Buprenorphine is an important medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder among teenagers and adults,” said senior author Gary Smith, MD, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio. “But it can cause decreased breathing and death if a young child swallows it. That is why all buprenorphine products should use unit-dose packaging to help prevent unintentional access by young children.”
“Safe storage of all opioids, including buprenorphine, is vital,” said Henry Spiller, Central Ohio Poison Center, Columbus, Ohio. “Parents and caregivers who take buprenorphine need to store it safely — up, away, and out of sigh; in a locked cabinet is best. Additionally, there is rising concern of adolescents abusing buprenorphine.”
Data for the study were obtained from the National Poison Data System, which is maintained by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). The AAPCC receives data on calls to regional poison control centres that serve the United States and its territories.
The Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital works globally to reduce injury-related paediatric death and disabilities. With innovative research at its core, CIRP works to continually improve the scientific understanding of the epidemiology, biomechanics, prevention, acute treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries.