Thousands of Arizona children landed in emergency departments last year as a result of accidental poisonings from prescription medicines in their home, according to the state Department of Health Services.
Emergency departments reported 2,300 visits from children 14 and under and 3,000 for children and adults ages 15-24.
Will Humble, director of the department, hopes this new year to lower that number drastically by reminding adults to keep medicines locked up and out of sight. "Up and Away and Out of Sight" is a promotion being led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While a number of that older group may be young teens and young adults experimenting with prescription medicines, Humble said, the younger group, "is just kids who find the pills and are able to open them and end up taking them."
Humble used his blog recently to promote the program, and told the Tribune the new year is a good time to get people to change their habits.
Parents need to know that even when medications have a safety lock on the bottle, there's no substitute for supervision or even getting left over pain medications from root canals or other surgeries out of the house, he said.
"It's like just relying on the gate in the pool," he said. "Are you just going to rely on the gate? No. You need to provide supervision, too."
This isn't just a trend in Arizona. Nationwide the number of young teens or adults who have died as a result of an accidental drug overdose is on the rise.
In some cases, teens are finding the leftover medications and "just trying" it, Humble said.
"Get rid of it. Get it out of home where it's enticing to teens," Humble said.
Even among older people, there's been a jump in accidental overdoses because people are lulled into a "false sense of security" to take a pill from a bottle that's been prescribed by a doctor, he said, and either too much is taken or the medicine is mixed with alcohol.
"One big category is people who misuse it," he said. "I don't think it's recreational. It's probably back aches or chronic pains they have. They see this jar in that cabinet and they just try it and they never get to try it again because they don't wake."
In that area, the victims are mostly adults over 40, Humble said.
There were no deaths last year in children under 5 from accidental overdoses, but there were adult deaths, Humble said.
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