(CNN) More than 11,200 calls concerning children’s exposure to buprenorphine, an opioid medication used to treat opioid use disorder, were made to US poison control centers from 2007 to 2016, a new study found. Eighty-six percent of the exposures were in children below the age of 6; 89% of the exposures were unintentional.
“This is never prescribed for children under 6. It is a significant risk to them,” said Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center and an author of the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. “We’re not quite sure why it stands out so much. Perhaps the parents who have this may not think it’s as risky as their other opiates because it doesn’t have the big effect that the other opiates do for them,” he said, in reference to the medication being left out or within reach of children who then try it.
Experts view these numbers as an unintended consequence of medical therapy being provided to those who need it, said Dr. Jason Kane, an associate professor of pediatrics and critical care at University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.