The opioid crisis has been steadily growing more dire for years, and new evidence has surfaced suggesting there are unexpected consequences even to treating the harmful addiction epidemic. CNN reported Monday that more and more young children are being unintentionally exposed to buprenorphine, a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction.
Between 2007 and 2016, over 11,000 calls were made to U.S. poison control centers regarding children's exposure to the drug, a study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday revealed. Eighty-six percent of those calls were about children under 6 years old.
Buprenorphine is "never prescribed" for children that young, and poses "a significant risk" to them, said Henry Spiller, one of the authors of the study. While 89 percent of the cases in the study concerned unintentional exposure, Spiller notes that intentional use is especially common among adolescents, with the intent of intoxication or even suicide.
The rate of exposure to buprenorphine almost doubled over the course of the study. With an increasing number of people misusing prescription opioids or otherwise battling addiction, misuse of treatment drugs like buprenorphine is likely to rise even more in the coming years.
The study shows that even the most well-intentioned methods for curbing the opioid epidemic can be harmful to "those who are most vulnerable," said Dr. Jason Kane, an associate professor of pediatrics and critical care with the University of Chicago. Read more at CNN.