Nearly twice as many kids, some as young as 1, are being hospitalized due to opioids

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

A mother holds her infant son Luke during a visit with him at Lily’s Place, a treatment center for opioid-dependent newborns in Huntington, West Virginia, October 19, 2015.

Children as young as 1 year old are overdosing on opioid medication and being hospitalized at a rapid rate, a new study published Monday found.

The number of pediatric opioid hospitalizations requiring intensive care nearly doubled to 1,504 patients between 2012 and 2015, from 797 patients between 2004 and 2007, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Pediatrics.

“We do believe there’s a direct relationship to the adult opioid crisis,” Dr. Jason Kane, associate professor of pediatrics and critical care at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told CNBC. He’s the lead author of the study, which used data from the Pediatric Health Information System database and involved an examination of 31 children’s hospitals.

Kane said about 20 percent of the youngest children were poisoned by methadone, an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain or opioid dependence in adults. This means many young children are likely finding their parents’ medication and ingesting it, Kane said.

The majority of the opioid-related hospitalizations were of children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old, the data showed. However, one-third of the children that required intensive care due to opioid overdose were under the age of 6. Overall, 37 percent of patients required mechanical ventilation and 20.3 percent required vasopressors, a drug used to raise blood pressure.