Youth opioid deaths down nationwide, not in Utah

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Youth opioid deaths down nationwide, not in Utah (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) New reports published in Pediatrics Medical Journal shows the rate of youth opioid overdose deaths is down across the nation, but Utah physicians say numbers are holding steady in our state.

The twin studies indicated opioid overdoses, particularly in youth, had decreased in 2015 to roughly 60,000 reports, the lowest numbers since 2009.

Utah also saw a 10-year low on reported childhood opioid deaths in 2009, with three children passing. From 2010 to 2015, however, Utah held steady with nine to eleven youth deaths reported.

"Our rate still went up. Other states leap-frogged over us. States like Ohio, New Hampshire," Dr. Jennifer Plumb, researcher and medical doctor at Primary Children’s Hospital said.

She found 87 percent of youth overdoses involved children under 5 years old, with the median age around 1 year.

"These aren't kids that are having a pill party at preschool. These are kids that are exposed to substances in their home," she said. “They’re orally exploring their environment."

Barbra Crouch, with the Utah Poison Control, said these are generally medications which were legally prescribed to be used therapeutically that toddlers found in their homes.

"Lots [of opioids] are dispensed every year. So they're available in the home. And when they're available in the home, children get into those," Crouch said.

Pain pills are not the only dangerous medications children are coming across. Medications used to treat opioid withdrawal also pose a medical risk if used incorrectly.

"It still is an opiate, and you still can absolutely overdose,” Plumb said. "One pill can kill a toddler. Opioids are absolutely one of them."

Healthcare providers encourage opioid patients to always lock up their medications, use them only as prescribed, and discard any remaining pills at a hospital or police station.

In case of emergency, dial 911 or contact the 24/7 poison controlline at 1 (800) 222-1222.