Accidental exposures of children to a well-known drug to treat opioid addiction are on the rise in Utah. Marty Malheiro, Education Specialist for the Utah Poison Control Center says while Buprenorphine is effective in treating heroin and opioid addiction in adults it can cause serious injury to children and in some cases lead to death.
“We are not saying this is a bad drug. It’s just now that when it gets into the hands of children they’re opioid naïve so their little systems aren’t use to the effects of opioids and we are seeing that there really isn’t a ceiling effect. They do get respiratory depression and that was not intended with the original development of this drug,” she says.
Utah saw an average of 36 reported cases of accidental exposure each year from 2009 to 2011. The majority of exposures were children six years and younger. Malheiro says it’s important for the drug to be out of sight and out of reach of young children.
“Don’t place any of the pill films on countertops, sinks, dressers, nightstands for use later. They need to always be kept up high. Discard the wrapping immediately by folding it together and placing it in the trash and securing the trash. We are seeing that some of these poisonings are just from the packaging,” she says.
Buprenorphine is available under the name Suboxone and Subutex. If your child is exposed to the drug contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.