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Exposure to Medication Overdose as an Adversity in Childhood

NCJ Number
Journal of Pediatric Nursing-Nursing Care of Children and Families Volume: 38 Dated: January-February 2018 Pages: 127-132
Kimberly J. Mitchell; Kerry Nolte; Heather A. Turner; Sherry Hamby; Lisa M. Jones
Date Published
February 2018
6 pages
This study's objective was to determine the prevalence of youth exposure to medication or pill overdose by someone close to them, as well as how common this is within the spectrum of major stressful events and child victimization experienced by youth.
Data were collected as part of the Third National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence, a nationally representative telephone survey of youth, ages 2-17 years old (N = 3738) conducted in 2013. The analytical subset for the current paper was youth ages 10-17 years (n = 1959). Estimates indicate that approximately 1 in 12 youth (8 percent), ages 10-17 had been exposed to medication overdose by someone close to them in their lifetimes. Overdose exposure was related to recent trauma symptoms, alcohol use, and other substance use; however, these relationships appear to be largely driven by the co-existence of major stressful events these youth are experiencing. Alcohol use is the exception; exposure to medication overdose continues to be related to past year personal alcohol use even after adjusting for other lifetime stressful events. Having a close family member or friend overdose on a medication was a common experience among U.S. youth and related to high rates of co-occurring stressful events. Based on these findings, the study advises that health care providers should be aware that a youth's exposure to medication overdoses likely indicates exposure to other recognized adversities. Youth with a caregiver who has had an overdose may require an urgent response, including referral to crisis intervention through child and family services. (publisher abstract modified)