Parents Not Doing Enough To Keep Prescription Drugs Away From Children, Study Finds

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Doctors say a lot of parents aren’t doing enough to keep their prescription medications safe and away from children. They say there’s a disconnect between what parents know they should do — and what they actually do.

A new study says poison control centers in the U.S. receive 32 calls a day about children being exposed to prescription opioids.

Sales of the drugs are up dramatically, doctors say. An unintended side effect is a sharp rise in painkiller abuse and the drugs increasingly getting into the wrong hands.

The number of children exposed to prescription opioids has fallen since 2009, but levels are still up from 2000. And that has doctors concerned.

READ: Study: Tanning Addicts Six Times As Likely To Be Dependent On Alcohol

“Lots of bad things can happen when children get into these medicines,” said Dr. Marcel Casavant, medical director at Central Ohio Poison Center. “Children getting sleepy, even to the point of coma and death. And children get respiratory depression where they decrease breathing or even stop breathing.”

A study in the Journal Pediatrics found the main groups at risk for exposure are curious youngsters under 5-years-old and teenagers looking to either get high or harm themselves.

And while pediatric exposure to most prescription painkillers has declined, exposure to buphrenorphine continues to climb. It’s prescribed to people who’ve previously been addicted to drugs.

“Buprenorphine is the safest for the addicts,” Dr. Casavant said. “It turns out to be extremely dangerous to young children.”

READ: Yogurt Could Reverse Depression Symptoms, Study Finds

The group ‘Safe Kids Worldwide’ says each year 60,000 kids – or four busloads – wind up in emergency rooms because they got into medicine.

“Parents should keep medication stored up and away, out of sight and out of reach every time after every single use,” said Dr. Marcee White, a pediatrician with the Children’s National Health System.

Parents are also advised to keep medicine in its original packaging. Start practicing safe storage as soon as your first child is born. And save the poison help number in your phone, as well as posting it in the house.

The study says nearly 12,000 children and teens mistakenly get some sort of opioid drug each year, many of them are children under 5 who find pills by mistake.

More from Stephanie Stahl

Watch & Listen LIVE