Child’s Death Being Investigated As Possible Opioid Overdose

2016 Was First Year With 4 Drug-Related Child Deaths In Milwaukee County

Pills on a counter
Toby Talbot/AP Photo

The Milwaukee Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating the death of a 2-year-old boy Thursday as a possible opioid overdose, according to the Associated Press.

Sara Schreiber, the forensic technical director at the Milwaukee Medical Examiner’s Office, said gun-related child deaths get a lot of attention, but there are more drug-related child deaths every year.

“There’s been very, very few of those where that has caused death and people are very concerned about, you know, how dangerous guns are,” Schreiber said of incidents involving guns. “Drugs are just as dangerous. They do kill individuals, and they do it very silently.”

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She said most prescription opioids are meant to be swallowed.

“When a young child gets a hold of a pill they’re going to chew it, just by nature of this is how they eat things,” Schreiber said. “So they’re going to chew the tablet, which releases all of the drug at once into the blood stream as it’s absorbed in the stomach and small intestine.”

Schreiber said in the past 10 years, there was an average of about one drug-related child death per year, but 2016 was the first year with four drug-related deaths in Milwaukee County.

A study released last month by the Journal of the American Medical Association found opioid poisoning hospitalizations across the country of children ages 1 to 4 more than doubled from 1997 to 2012.

The study examined 13,052 discharge records for peoples ages 1 to 19 hospitalized for opioid poisoning from Jan. 1997 to Dec. 2012.

Schreiber said all drug-related deaths are preventable, and this a problem that can be fixed if people are more careful about securely storing their painkillers.

An autopsy for the toddler was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27.