HealthDay News — Opioid dependence/abuse is a critical public health issue among children in the United States, according to a study scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, held from September 16 to 19 in Chicago.

Veerajalandhar Allareddy, MD, MBA, from the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, and colleagues used the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample for 2008 to 2013 to identify emergency department visits with diagnoses codes for opioid dependence/abuse among those aged up to 21 years. 

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The researchers found that there were 257,165 emergency department visits with opioid dependence/abuse among those aged up to 21 years during the study period. From 2008 to 2013 there was an increase in the number of emergency department visits from 32,235 to 49,626. Of the emergency department visits made, 88.3% were by those aged 18 to 21 years and 8.4% were by those aged 16 to 17 years. Fifty-six percent of visits were by males. Following an emergency department visit, 58.2 and 31.4% were discharged routinely and were admitted as inpatients into the same hospital, respectively. Two hundred children died in the emergency department and 325 died following hospitalization.

“It was very concerning to see that by the last year we studied, an average of 135 children each day were testing positive for opioid addiction or dependency in emergency departments,” Allareddy said in a statement. “In our opinion, this is a pediatric public health crisis.”

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