Mar 23, 2017 5:53 PM

Opioid-related toddler fatalities climb steadily with 2 in NH over past 6 years

Whether someone is misusing opioids or are prescribed them for medical purposes, the drug is leaving a negative impact on toddlers.

If a 35-pound toddler grabs just one opioid pill, chews it and releases the full concentration of a time-released adult drug into their small bodies, death can come swiftly.

These are some of the youngest victims of the nation's opioid epidemic — children under age five who die after swallowing opioids. The number of children's deaths is still small relative to the overall toll from opioids, but toddler fatalities have climbed steadily over the last 10 years.

In 2000, 14 children in the U.S. under age 5 died after ingesting opioids. By 2015, that number climbed to 51, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past six years, New Hampshire has witnessed two child deaths resulting from opioids.

In July 2011, a 7-month-old died after his mother, Kristine Davis of Hudson, failed to secure a fentanyl patch that got accidentally transferred from her body to her son's, the Telegraph reported.

FDA reports "that infants and toddlers have unique risks of accidental exposure to fentanyl. Infants are often held by adults, increasing the chances that a partially detached patch could be transferred from adult to child."

Davis pleaded guilty to a reckless conduct charge and received no jail time after a judge gave her a suspended sentence.

The most recent incident occurred in October 2016 when Leo Witham of Hampton allegedly left an open container of fentanyl in reach of his 19-month-old stepson. Police also found a bottle of Lorazepam concealed under a blanket on the child's bed.

READ: NH man faces new indictment for manslaughter in death of 19-month-old stepson

A judge indicted Witham in March 2017 for manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, possession of a controlled drug and falsifying physical evidence.

The FDA also warns the public that those who misuse opioids also impact those around them. They encourage appropriate prescribing by healthcare practitioners to help alleviate the crisis. They also feel doctors should consider the family when prescribing to a patient to avoid drugs being taken by others.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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