Codeine unsafe for kids

The drug is still prescribed despite warnings it is potentially deadly

Doctors have continued to prescribe codeine to children treated in emergency rooms, despite a host of available alternatives and the potential harm the drug can cause to young people, according to a study released by the University of California, San Francisco.

Researchers from the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital found that codeine prescriptions out of U.S. emergency rooms declined nearly 1 percent between 2001 and 2010. Still, the drug was given to hundreds of thousands of children; between 559,000 and 877,000. Codeine, an opioid, is prescribed as a cough suppressant and pain reliever. Alternatives include ibuprofen and hydrocodone.

UCSF’s research, published recently in the journal Pediatrics, notes that codeine is ineffective in about a third of the children who take it. Meanwhile, up to 1 in 12 children are highly susceptible to the drug, which can accumulate in toxic levels and lead to slowed breathing and potentially death.