Giving Kids Sedatives May Classify as Abuse

July 23, 2010

Findings from a new study suggest that giving children drugs for malicious reasons should be classified as abuse, and is an under-recognized national problem.

Parents who give their kids medications that they might not need to help them sleep during a plane ride may want to think twice before doing it again.

Findings from a new study suggest that giving children drugs for malicious reasons should be classified as abuse, and is an under-recognized national problem.

In the study, which is set to be published in the Journal of Pediatrics, Shan Yin, MD, of the University of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Poison Drug Center at Denver Health, and colleagues found that abuse results in more than 150 cases and two deaths every year.

Using the National Poison Data System, the researchers found and reviewed more than 1,400 reports of malicious use of drugs on children, including use of alcohol, antipsychotics, painkillers, cough and cold medicines, sedatives, and sleeping pills.

Their findings were as follows: nearly 14% of cases resulted in moderate to major consequences, including death of the child; nearly 50% of children were given at least one sedative; and an average of 160 cases, including two deaths, were reported each year.

In the report, Yin noted that there are various known motives for abusing children with drugs, ranging from punishment and amusement, to a desire to have a break from childcare. He urges pediatricians and emergency medical personnel “to be on the watch for this form of maltreatment, and suggests the use of comprehensive drug screening during the evaluation of a child suspected to be the victim of abuse.”