Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters

Children poisoned with illegal drugs in Glasgow

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7191.1137 (Published 24 April 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1137
  1. Jack Beattie, Consultant paediatrician — emergency medicine.
  1. Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow G3 8SJ

    EDITOR—Harkin et al reported the death of a young child in Dublin caused by methadone stored in a baby's bottle.1 They rightly encourage the routine supply of measuring devices with methadone prescriptions, although perhaps a more appropriate arrangement in families with young children might be ongoing supervised administration within a pharmacy, which may also reduce the opportunity for resale of the drug among drug misusers.

    Such tragedies are not new.2 During 1998, among 315 children admitted for observation and treatment for poisoning to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow, 22 had been poisoned with illicit drugs or methadone (table). All came from the local area. They included 11 preschool children who had accidentally ingested drugs, usually within the home. Methadone played a part in three of these 11 cases, although none was related to storage in feeding bottles.

    Children poisoned with illegal drugs in Glasgow (No)

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    Some of these children were seriously ill, and one required intensive care. A further 11 children of school age were admitted over the same period, primarily poisoned by illicit drugs during experimental use or in the context of major psychosocial problems.

    These events, together with comparatively common accidental needlestick injuries seen after exposure to discarded injecting equipment, highlight the risks run by young children living in households or environments where illegal drugs or their substitutes are used. They represent an additional issue to be considered in supervising and protecting children in such families.

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