"We felt like we were seeing so many children with poisonings related to prescription drugs," says Burghardt, an emergency room doctor at Boston Children's Hospital. Other studies had shown a 36 percent increase between 2001 and 2008 in the number of kids hospitalized after taking prescription drugs meant for someone else.
The team used statistics from the National Poison Data System, and compared them to data on prescriptions written for adults using the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys for 2000 through 2009.
"Increasing rates of adult drug prescriptions are strongly associated with increases in drug exposures and poisonings among children and appear to be a direct cause of exposures and poisonings," they wrote in a report published in the journal Pediatrics.
Over that time, 38,485 children took diabetes drugs that lower blood sugar; 39,693 took cholesterol-lowering medications; 49,075 took blood pressure drugs called beta-blockers, which slow heart rate, and 62,416 took opioid painkillers. Kids 5 and younger were by far the most likely to be poisoned, but 2,330 teens were treated for opioid poisoning, and they very likely took the drugs on purpose, Burghardt says.
Burghardt's team only looked at those four drug classes, as they were the most commonly involved in poisonings.
Image: Prescription pill bottles, via Shutterstock