Child abuse affects nearly one million children a year in the United States but the definitions of abuse - neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse - fail to address the malicious use of pharmaceuticals. This hidden form of abuse is under-recognized, claim the researchers behind a new study into pharmaceutical-related abuse of children.
For the new study, researcher Dr. Shan Yin, from the University of Colorado, reviewed cases of pharmaceutical abuse reported to the National Poison Data System between 2000 and 2008. Dr. Yin included reports of the malicious use of alcohol, painkillers, cough and cold medicines, sedatives and antipsychotic medicines.
Worryingly, of the more than 1,400 cases studied, nearly 14 percent resulted in moderate to major consequences, including death. Nearly one-half of the abused children were exposed to at least one sedative. An average of 160 cases, including two deaths, was reported each year.
Motives were unavailable for the cases in the study; however, the researchers speculate that they might include punishment, amusement, or a wish for a break from childcare responsibilities.
Dr. Yin says the study illustrates the seriousness of the abusive use of drugs administered to children. "The malicious administration of pharmaceuticals should be considered an important form of child abuse," Yin contends. He encourages 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.
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Source: Journal of Pediatrics