A toddler from Melville, Long Island is recovering after an accidental overdose of methadone. First responders reported having to revive the toddler with Narcan after he had swallowed a dangerous amount of his mother’s methadone and lost consciousness on Monday, January 25. This is not an isolated incident and many other children have not been so lucky, losing their lives as a result.

Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, creating a public health crisis. In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is focused on helping to solve this issue. One of the ways it is doing this is by promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs.

Methadone, a long-acting synthetic opioid, is prescribed by doctors to help treat patients with addictions to substances such as heroin or narcotic painkillers. The drug is supposed to reduce withdrawal symptoms and curve cravings to help individuals kick the opioid habit. Recently, however, an increase of methadone overdoses by children is revealing opioid misuse within the home:

  • A mom from South Brunswick, New Jersey was arrested in June 2018 for the death of her 2-year-old son. According to rescue workers, the toddler had overdosed on his mother’s methadone and was unresponsive and unable to be revived.
  • Another mother from Grand Rapids, Michigan purposely gave her six-week-old infant methadone ‘because she was fussy’ in September 2018. The infant was revived by Narcan and luckily survived the overdose.
  •  A Dubois, Indiana man and woman were arrested in January 2019 after the death of a three-year-old. The toddler was found unresponsive by first responders, and the autopsy revealed the toddler died of methadone toxicity.

These are just a few examples. According to an article published in MedPage Today, nearly 9,000 children have died from opioid poisoning in the last two decades. Of these tragic deaths, at least 5,000 were estimated to be children under the age of six, with the largest number of hospitalizations among toddlers and preschoolers.

Sadly, there are far too many cases of parents providing their children with opioid drugs as a soother, particularly with younger infants. Whether they understand the consequences of these drugs on children is unknown and hard to prevent considering it only takes one overdose to kill a child. Most opioid ingestions involving children can be avoided by limiting the accessibility and using simple medication safety measures in the home.

Methadone is a drug that is used to treat opioid addictions, but it is still classified as an opioid itself. It’s one of the most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and children are becoming innocent victims.

Why Methadone Is So Dangerous

It doesn’t take a large dose of methadone to have a lethal effect on a child. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), states adults are typically prescribed enough methadone to equal several fatal doses for a child. These overdoses can cause horrible physical and cognitive side effects extremely quick, with the possibility of shutting down vital organs and causing brain damage young children cannot survive.

What’s Causing Methadone Overdoses To Rise

Methadone overdoses are by no means a new issue. The NCBI study states methadone overdoses in children have been recorded since the 1960s after the drug was initially used to treat patients with chronic pain. Accidents involving children ingesting methadone, however, have increased drastically as the drug continues to become more popular. According to the study, not only have laws regarding the prescription of methadone become more liberal, the clinical uses for the drug have expanded. Its painkilling abilities have led to an increase in the number of individuals who are using the drug to replace existing opioid addictions, putting the substance in more homes across the country with children who could be harmed.

Lock Up Your Meds

The majority of accidents involving children who have overdosed on opioid drugs are due to the poor handling, storage, and monitoring of the drugs inside the home. ReachMD reported in 2017 that only 32% of parents were taking the time to properly lock up their prescription medications, leaving the opportunity for younger children to mistaken them as candy or older children to experiment far too young.

The CDC suggests following these safety measures in your home to keep kids safe:

  • Keep medicine up high and out of reach.
  • Always put medicine away after use.
  • Make sure the safety cap is locked.
  • Teach your children about medicine safety.
  • Inform any guests about your medicine safety policies in the home.
  • Have poison control number (800) 222-1222 available at all times.

Because accidents can still occur, it’s extremely important for every parent to know the signs of an opioid overdose to be able to act fast. Symptoms to watch include nausea, drowsiness, lethargy, confusion, disorientation, uncontrollable muscle twitches, seizures, and rapid/quick breathing. Call for medical attention immediately if you suspect your child could have ingested any amount of opioid medication.

Keep LI Kids Safe

After the close call in Melville last week, the Melville Fire Department is pleading with parents to lock up their medications, posting this warning on their Facebook page for the community to consider: “If you think that we don’t have an opioid epidemic right here in front of us, think again. This was an innocent child. If you know someone battling an opioid addiction, help them get help. If you’re thinking that you can try it and not get hooked, we are literally begging you…please don’t!”