HealthDay News — According to a study published in Pediatrics, a child’s risk of a potentially fatal drug overdose more than doubles if a parent is prescribed an opioid and appropriate storage guidelines are often not followed.

Yaron Finkelstein, MD, a pediatric emergency doctor with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and colleagues evaluated child overdose cases in Ontario, Canada, between 2002 and 2015. 

They also examined prescription records showing which mothers had been sent home with either an opioid or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). The researchers focused on children aged 10 and younger.

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The researchers found that children were 2.4 times more likely to suffer an opioid overdose after their mother received a prescription opioid, compared with children of women prescribed an NSAID like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 

Half of the children treated for overdose were younger than 2 years old. The opioids most commonly involved were codeine (53.4%), oxycodone (32.0%), and methadone (15.5%).

In a second study published in the same journal, Eileen McDonald, an associate scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues surveyed almost 681 US adults who used opioids in the past year and had children aged 17 or younger living with them.

The researchers asked parents how they prevented children from accessing the drugs. Across both age groups, just 29.0% of parents reported they were safely storing opioids. Of parents with very young children, 32.6% reported storing the drugs properly, compared to 11.7% of parents with older children or teens.


Finkelstein Y, et al. “Overdose Risk In Young Children Of Women Prescribed Opioids”. Pediatrics. 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2887 [Epub ahead of print]

McDonald EM, et al. “Safe Storage Of Opioid Pain Relievers Among Adults Living In Households With Children”. Pediatrics. 2017. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2161 [EPub ahead of print]

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