Parents and police increasingly are encountering toddlers and young children unconscious or dead after consuming an adult’s opioids, the New York Times reports. The children’s hospital in Dayton, Oh., says accidental ingestions have more than doubled, to some 200 intoxications a year, with tiny bodies found laced by drugs like fentanyl. In Milwaukee, eight children have died of opioid poisoning since late 2015, all from legal substances like methadone and oxycodone. In Salt Lake City, a emergency doctor revived four overdosing toddlers in a night, a phenomenon she called both new and alarming.
While these deaths represent a small fraction of the epidemic’s toll, they are an indication of how deeply the addiction crisis has cut In August, in the latest sign of the direness of the situation, President Trump said he would declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, a move that could allow cities and states to access federal disaster relief funds. Eighty-seven children died of opioid intoxication in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up from just 16 in 1999. By comparison, gunshot wounds kill four or five times as many children each year. At hospitals like Primary Children’s in Utah, drug overdoses now outstrip gun injuries among young people. “There are no pill parties happening in preschools,” said Dr. Jennifer Plumb, the emergency doctor who recently treated four opioid-sick toddlers in a night. “These kids aren’t making a choice because they are trying to get high on a substance. It’s that the pills are everywhere.” Unlike infants born with addiction, these children are coming across heroin and other drugs in the days and years after birth.