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Paediatric opioid poisoning in the UK: a retrospective analysis of clinical enquiries to the National Poisons Information Service
  1. Hannah Elisabeth Yard1,
  2. John P Thompson2,3,
  3. Laurence Gray4,
  4. James M Coulson2,3,
  5. Sally M Bradberry3,
  6. Euan Sandilands5,
  7. Ruben Thanacoody6,
  8. David Tuthill7
  1. 1School of Medicine, Cardiff University Department of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  3. 3National Poisons Information Service, Birmingham, UK
  4. 4University Hospital Llandough, Llandough, UK
  5. 5National Poisons Information Service, Edinburgh, UK
  6. 6National Poisons Information Service, Newcastle, UK
  7. 7Paediatrics, Children's hospital for Wales, Cardiff, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Hannah Elisabeth Yard, School of Medicine, Cardiff University Department of Medicine, Cardiff, CF14 4YS, UK; Hannah.yard1{at}nhs.net

Abstract

Objective To evaluate a decade of reported paediatric opioid poisoning cases in the UK.

Methods The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) telephone enquiries database (UK Poisons Information Database) was searched for calls regarding opioid poisoning in children under 18 years from 2012 to 2021. The NPIS online clinical guidance database TOXBASE was searched for accesses relating to opioids for both adults and children. The Office of National Statistics provided paediatric data for hospital admissions and deaths in those aged under 20 years old due to opioids.

Results The NPIS received 426 774 telephone enquiries from 2012 to 2021 from across the UK, 3600 in relation to opioid exposures regarding children under 18 years. Annual telephone enquiries regarding paediatric opiate poisoning reduced year on year, from around 450 to 300 calls/year. A rise in all age TOXBASE annual accesses relating to opioids from 71 642 in 2012 to 87 498 in 2021 was noted, a total of 838 455 during the study period. Hospital admissions from opioid poisoning remained consistent, with around 1500 admissions/year. Deaths were uncommon, but averaged 18 deaths annually. Co-codamol was the most reported substance to NPIS, with 1193 calls (36.5%), followed by codeine with 935 (26.1%).

Conclusions Opioid poisoning in children is not uncommon. There is a general downward trend in telephone enquiries to NPIS, but many childhood exposures may have been dealt with through consultations via TOXBASE, where accesses relating to opioids have increased. Unfortunately, children still die from opioid exposure each year in the UK and this figure has changed little during 2012–2021.

  • Epidemiology
  • Paediatric Emergency Medicine
  • Paediatrics
  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. No publicly available data repository exists due to the confidential nature of these data. Data is held within the NPIS database.

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Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. No publicly available data repository exists due to the confidential nature of these data. Data is held within the NPIS database.

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Footnotes

  • X @ElisabetHannah5

  • Contributors The original question was conceived and planned by DT and LG. Conduct of paper and analysis was by DT, LG and HEY. All authors (HEY, JPT, LG, JMC, SMB, ES, RT and DT) have seen the final and revised manuscripts. DT is guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.