If the kids become too much to handle, slip ’em a little cold medicine. It’s an often-repeated joke — or advice — that parents share on the playground or on Twitter and Facebook pages.
One mom, Jill Smokler, said she doesn’t vilify parents who medicate their kids: “It’s not the end of the world.”
“It’s certainly better than being pushed to edge, spanking a child or slamming doors or really losing it,” she said.
But drugging children with over-the-counter or prescription medications can have unintended consequences, said the author of a research published Thursday, who likened the practice to child abuse.
The research, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found an average 160 annual cases in which pharmaceutical drugs were maliciously used on children.
“We believe the malicious use of pharmaceuticals may be an under-recognized form and/or component of child maltreatment,” wrote the author, Dr. Shan Yin, a pediatrician.
Using information from the National Poison Data System, Yin found that children were most commonly receiving analgesics, stimulants/street drugs, sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotics and cough or cold medications.
He found 1,439 cases from 2000 to 2008. Of those, 14 percent resulted in injuries, and 18 children died. More than half of the cases involved at least one sedating drug; 17 of the 18 deaths included sedatives. Yin said the poison data most likely underestimates the actual number of cases.
The circumstances around the 18 deaths were not clear, Yin said. He did not have access to case notes and legal findings. Four of them were ruled as homicides, three resulted in legal action against the mother, two were noted as highly suspicious and one included cocaine.
Why young children were given drugs such as antidepressants, stimulants and antipsychotics were also unclear. The motives, he said, could widely vary, such as overwhelmed parents looking for a break, amusement or punishment.
“Anytime you’re giving a medication for any other purpose other than for what it’s explicitly prescribed for, you run the risk of harming your child,” Yin said.
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