What We're Reading: Opioid Poisoning, Suicide in Children; Lung Cancer Screening Rates; Unspecified Drug Overdose Deaths

February 28, 2020

Rates of opioid poisoning in children point to a greater need for mental health services among this age group to prevent suicide; lung cancer screening rates fall below recommended levels for at-risk patient groups; not all deaths from opioid-related causes are reported as such.

Opioid Poisoning Among Children Shines the Spotlight on Suicide

Lung Cancer Screening Rates Are Below Optimal Levels for At-Risk Adults

Between 2005 and 2018, almost 28% (207,543) of opioid poisoning cases involved children younger than 19 years, according to MedPage Today, citing data from the National Poison Data System. Close to half of these instances were accidental. During this same time period, attempted suicides accounted for more than 20% of opioid overdoses. According to Megan Land, MD, from Emory University, the 2 most common age ranges for the poisonings are 0 to 4 years and 15 to 19 years. Data were collected from 55 poison control centers and for 3 time periods: 2005 to 2009, 2010 to 2014, and 2015 to 2018. Health officials are calling for an increase in initiatives “to better identify children with mental health issues and help them and their families get services to prevent suicide attempts.”The CDC is reporting that just 12.5% of adults for whom lung cancer screening was recommended had the procedure done in 2017, in the 10 states where the rate was investigated. These adults ranged in age from 55 to 80 years, had at least a 30 pack-year smoking history, and currently smoke or quit less than 15 years ago. With lung cancer cited as the top cause of cancer deaths in the United States, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends an annual screen for the disease via low-dose computed tomography, which can detect the disease at earlier stages. Trials of smoking cessation methods are underway by the National Cancer Institute and Veterans Health Administration for patients who have lung cancer screenings.

Unspecified Drug Overdose Deaths Underestimate the Opioid Epidemic

Underestimating the extent of the opioid epidemic could mean inadequate funds and resources are made available to ameliorate this ongoing crisis, possible leading to more deaths, says The Atlantic. Two economists from the University of Rochester realized a potential discrepancy in how opioid deaths were classified while studying how a decline in coal mining and rise in fracking correlated with opioid overdose deaths. For example, from 1999 to 2016, there were actually 99,000 more opioid deaths than reported. In some states, the rates were double.