Opioid pills ‘are like guns': More than 13,000 children were poisoned during six-year period

Graphic images of a mom and dad passed out, mouths agape, in a car with their 4-year-old still strapped into the back seat. A video of a woman lying in a grocery-store aisle as a toddler in pink pajamas cries and shakes her. The police report of a 7-year-old who told her bus driver on the way back from school that she hadn't been able to wake her parents.

Such stories, circulated on social media in recent months, have highlighted the toll of the epidemic of opioid abuse on the youngest Americans. They have become a rallying cry for pediatricians calling for better psychological counseling and other supports to better protect the children of addicts.

But a new study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, shows that the effects of the crisis on children go far beyond mental health. According to an analysis of discharge papers collected every three years from a representative sample of pediatric hospitals nationwide, 13,052 children were hospitalized for poisonings from opioid prescriptions of Oxycodone, Percocet, codeine and the like during six years between 1997 to 2012. Of those, 176 died.

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