Fentanyl Is Main Agent in Fatal Pediatric Opioid Poisoning

Fentanyl is the main agent implicated in fatal pediatric opioid poisonings.

HealthDay News — Fentanyl is the main agent implicated in fatal pediatric opioid poisonings, according to a study published online May 8 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Julie R. Gaither, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., from the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, conducted a cross-sectional study to identify opioid deaths between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2021, among individuals younger than 20 years.

Gaither found that fentanyl was implicated in 37.5 percent of fatal pediatric opioid poisonings between 1999 and 2021. Most deaths occurred among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years and children aged 0 to 4 years (89.6 and 6.6 percent, respectively). Overall, 43.8 percent of deaths occurred at home; most (87.5 percent) were unintentional. In 17.1 percent of deaths, coingestion of benzodiazepines was implicated. Approximately 5 percent of the 175 deaths from opioids in 1999 were from fentanyl, compared with 94.0 percent of 1,657 opioid deaths by 2021. The mortality rate per 100,000 increased 3,740.0 percent between 2013 and 2021, from 0.05 to 1.92. Between 2018 and 2021, the mortality rate increased 289.8 percent for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years (from 1.67 to 6.51) and 590.0 percent for children aged 0 to 4 years (from 0.10 to 0.69).

“Commonsense solutions (e.g., safe storage and disposal) are still needed to prevent pediatric exposures to opioids, but a greater emphasis on harm reduction strategies is necessary, including parental and adolescent treatment for opioid use disorder and improving access to naloxone in homes, which is where most pediatric deaths from fentanyl occur,” Gaither writes.

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