Turn up the volume on safety message

“Keep out of reach of children.”

You’ve read it, right? Such a polite little piece of advice stripped up the sides of medication boxes and bottles around the world.

But it’s so polite, and so common, that it has lost much of the authority it may once have commanded. It’s like the “STOP IT!” “STOP it.” “Stop it.” “Oh, whatever. The kids never listen to me anyway” that we’re all guilty of now and then as fed-up, worn-out parents.

I was shocked once by a mother who spoke so casually about her four-year-old daughter taking her father’s very dangerous antipsychotic medication. I was even further shocked by her relaxed attitude to medication safety moving forward from this event.

Was this someone who had become “deaf” to the message?

Sometimes, like kids, we need something a little more direct and persuasive – a bit LOUDER - to get us listening again.

Well, how’s this for a loud message when it comes to medication safety?

It’s a headline from The New York Times recently - “Opioid poisonings rise sharply among toddlers and teenagers”.

Turns out that a massive increase in the use of opioids (painkillers), combined with unsafe medication storage around the home – ie, parents or other adults leaving pills within easy reach – has resulted in a huge spike in poisonings among little kids.

The story, based on a study published in the reputable JAMA Pediatrics, says the number of children aged 1-4 years being hospitalised in the US because of prescription opioid poisoning has risen sharply since 1997 – a whopping 205 percent!

Here in Australia use of opioids, while not as high as in the US, has also blown out - quadrupling in the period 2001-2013 (ABC). And there’s no reason to assume we’re any better at keeping our drugs out of reach of children.

The lead study author from the US study recommended: “The medical community needs to develop a safety plan for parents to store the pills and make their homes safe for their children” and to ensure adults understand how potent these drugs are and to “keep them out of reach of children”.

How’s that for LOUD?