ER doctors see increase in Pima County children with opioid exposure

Published: Nov. 1, 2016 at 12:45 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:12 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The number of young children rushed to the hospital for overdosing on opioids have spiked in recent years. That's according to a new study from researchers at the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.

Yale researchers found the number of poisonings went up 205 percent in children ages 1 to 4 in 2012. But this public health problem is not only an issue in the country, but also here in Pima County.

Tucson News Now spoke to an ER doctor who said out of the more than 900 opioid related calls poison control received in 2015 in Arizona, more than ten percent involved children.

Dr. Mazda Shirazi is an Emergency physician at Banner UMC and the medical director of Arizona Poison and Drug Information. He said with the increase in people who are prescribed pain killers, like Oxycodone or Fentanyl, comes the increase in opioids in the household.

Poison Control is seeing an increase in accidental overdoses in children under six which means kids are able to get a hold of the pills and ingest them in the house. He said a child could die from swallowing just one pill. Shirazi said number of people rushed to the hospital in Pima County for opioid exposure has raised sharply over the last decade.

"If you compare let's say ten years ago to now, we see children under age five, their number has increased, children above age five – their number has increased, adult overdoses – their number has increased,"Dr. Mazda Shirazi, Banner UMC Emergency Room physician, said.

Pima County Poison Control numbers for children under 13 who were exposed to opioids:

  • 2016 year to date = 41
  • 2015 = 46
  • 2014 = 45
  • 2013 = 38

Tucson News Now asked Dr. Shirazi what he thinks it will take to put a stop to this epidemic.

"I think we need a global look or holistic look at how we treat pain in our country, in our state in our municipalities and how one can decrease and treat pain and what other modalities besides prescription pills are there," Shirazi said.

Shirazi recommends locking up your medication, or put it in a place where child cannot reach it. With the holidays around the corner, he said to be vigilant about your guests and what a child could grab from their purse, if it's left on the floor.

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