If you are suffering from a cold or flu, don�t turn to the cheap, readily available opioids, you should first see a pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the misuse of opioids among US children has reached epidemic proportions and costs taxpayers more than $4.5 billion annually.
As of last year, almost 3,000 US children were treated in the US for opioids, according to a new report released Tuesday by the advocacy group Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
That’s a sharp rise from 2014, when just 15 children were admitted for opioids.
According to the report, a study published in Pediatrics last month found that more than 40% of US children had been prescribed opioids during their childhood.
In 2014, the CDC estimated that more children were prescribed opioids than any other country in the world, with the average prescription for opioid-related pain medications being given to 2.2 children.
The CDC also found that, while opioids were the most commonly prescribed pain medication in 2014, there was a sharp decline in prescriptions for other painkillers such as acetaminophen and painkillers prescribed for sleep apnea.
The report estimates that about 40% to 50% of children in the United States were prescribed painkillers during their lifetime, and more than 25% had at least one prescription for an opioid during the previous 12 months.
The prevalence of opioids in the U.S. has been increasing in recent years, as states have passed laws and expanded the number of pharmacies that can dispense the medications.
In California, which has one of the highest rates of opioid abuse in the country, more than half of children with chronic pain were prescribed opioid painkillers, the report said.
In addition to opioid pain medications, pediatricians prescribe antibiotics for chronic infections, including pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections.
Pediatricians and neurologists treat many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the advocacy report said, noting that painkillers are one of those common medications prescribed to patients with chronic conditions.
Children and adolescents can also be prescribed opioids for anxiety, sleep disorders and migraines.