If Opioid Dependence is Preventable in Children, Why are 70% of Opioids in Homes Not Stored Safely?

The Journal of Pediatrics has declared heroin dependence a "preventable pediatric chronic disease".  Other than marijuana, teens are trying opioids more frequently than any other drug, but parents and the medical community have not been willing to face this harsh reality.  One of the biggest drivers of the opioid epidemic is the over-prescription of opioids.  Many people have leftover bottles of pills in their medicine cabinets which can be incredibly tempting to teenagers.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a new report last month (February, 2017) finding that nearly 70% of all prescription opioids in the US are not safely stored away from the reach of children.

“Unsafely stored opioids can contribute to accidental ingestions among younger children and pilfering by older children, especially high school students. We know that teens who use these drugs recreationally frequently get them from homes where they are easily accessible, increasing their risk for addiction and overdose.”

— McDonald, Eileen, Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy

This is doubly tragic.  First, children who are exposed to these medications are at risk of developing a physical dependency. Once the medications run out, dependent children head to the street (or to school, or to their friends), where they are likely to encounter counterfeit pain pills and ultimately heroin.  In either case, those drugs can be laced with synthetic opioids like fentanyl which are tied to the steep increase in overdose deaths in the US.

Second, teenagers are susceptible to overdose.  They are generally new to consuming opioids and their brains have few if any extra receptors to process the flooding of opioids that comes from ingesting these medications.  

Please, take the time to securely store your medications.  Even better, take all your leftover opioids and flush them down the toilet.  That is the best way to assure that no one in your house will consume them.

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