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Accidental prescription drug poisoning on the rise

GRAND FORKS -- As more adults are using prescription drugs to manage aches, pains and chronic illness, there's been a spike in accidental poisonings in children, according to a study published in the July issue of Pediatrics, the official journal the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children younger than 5 are at the highest risk, the study found.

The number of childhood deaths from accidental poisoning increased by 80 percent in the past decade, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adults need to do a better job of keeping their meds out of reach, according to Diana Read, injury and violence prevention director at the North Dakota Department of Health.

She recommends storing these drugs in a locked cabinet.

"Don't take prescription drugs or any pills in front of your children. Don't refer to drugs as candy, and always supervise your children," she said.

The study also found a concerning increase in these medicine poisonings among teens. Read noted these cases can involve recreational use or attempts at self-harm.

"Last year, we had 46 calls that were pertinent to opioids in North Dakota," she said. Opioids are prescribed for pain management.

There is no way of knowing whether the incidents were intentional because the department doesn't keep that data, she said. "But what we do know is that there is an increase across the nation."

Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., the CDC has reported.

"Kids are curious, they're risk-takers, or maybe their friends are into it. Don't leave those opioids around after you're done with them," Read said. North Dakota's drug take-back program "is a wonderful service, and I think it's underused."

She recommends bringing unused drugs to a pharmacy or a local police or sheriff's office for proper disposal, she said.

For more information on state's prescription drug disposal program, visit the attorney general's website at