Methadone Abuse in Children
Research results suggest that the risks of children being given or accidentally ingesting dangerous narcotic drugs may be more common than many people know.
The U.K. charity Adfam claims that in the last five years there were 17 cases where a child died from abuse or neglect that involved opioid drug substitutes like methadone. Even one child’s death is tragic, especially when that death was completely preventable. This was the first detailed examination of the dangers to children of medications normally used in drug treatments.
The charity said: “Although methadone is effective in treating drug addiction, child ingestions happen with depressing regularity and national lessons are not being learned from serious case reviews. We are seeing a rare but real use of methadone as a pacifier for small children.”
It is possible that in some cases parents or caregivers who have addiction problems mistakenly give a crying, or perhaps an over active child, methadone or something similar. They may even use it several times before a noticeable problem occurs, or in a stressful situation, inadvertently give a lethal dose to a child.
In about a fifth of cases studied, parents were “deliberately administering methadone to young children, apparently in misguided attempts to soothe or pacify them.”
In other instances, the parents may irresponsibly leave their medication where inquisitive children can see or find it, creating the possibility of accidental poisoning. Sadly, these preventable accidents happen.
Physicians should assess all patients and the possibility of exposure to children when prescribing any medications with the potential to be abused or misused by small children in the household or given to small children to keep them quiet. Medical professionals should explicitly tell parents not to give methadone to their children in any circumstance.
Though this study was conducted in the UK, similar problems are found in the US. It is never ok to dose children with cough syrup, Benadryl, liquor or other medications to keep them quiet. Keep all medications out of reach of children and in child-resistant containers.