Two-Thirds of Emergency Department Visits for Accidental Drug Ingestion Are Young Children

Posted on October 14th, 2010

A new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that two-thirds of emergency department visits in 2008 for accidental ingestion of drugs were children ages 5 or younger.

Of 100, 340 visits, two-fifths involved two-year-olds, and nearly one-third involved one-year-olds. Slightly more than half of the visits were males under five years old. Many of these emergency visits involved drugs that affect the central nervous system—mostly pain relievers and anti-anxiety and insomnia drugs. About 15.7 percent of the visits involved drugs used to treat heart disease, and 10.3 percent involved drugs used to treat the respiratory system.

Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., SAMHSA Administrator, said that accidental poisoning is a very common childhood injury, and mostly happens in the home. She added that it’s extremely important for parents to lock up drugs and properly dispose of unused or expired medications, as this small gesture can save lives.

The study also examined whether the children needed additional treatment following their emergency department visits. Most were treated and released following the initial visit, but about one in ten were admitted for inpatient care and about five percent were transferred to other treatment facilities.

The study is based on SAMHSA’s 2008 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, which monitors drug-related emergency department visits nationwide.

Source: SAMHSA, Accidental Drug Ingestions Lead to More than 100,000 Hospital Emergency Department Visits Annually, October 14, 2010

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