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Tackling the risks to children

29 April 2014

The Adfam report examines the dangers to children when their parents or carers are prescribed Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST) medications, and brings up significant issues for the sector where current practice in many areas needs to be improved.

“At Blenheim we are confident that we effectively respond to this issue, however we will be revisiting our practice in the light of the recommendations of this powerful and significant report to ensure we are following best practice, if we save just one life it will be worthwhile.” John Jolly, CEO, Blenheim.

The report recognises that medicines used to treat adults’ drug addiction can be lethal to children in their care. Unfortunately child ingestions happen with ‘depressing regularity’ and national lessons are not being learned from Serious Case Reviews.

Shockingly, the new report reveals the ‘rare but real’ use of methadone as a pacifier for small children in some areas.

Medications in drug treatment: tackling the risks to children, looks at Serious Case Reviews, international research and media coverage of incidents of children ingesting methadone and buprenorphine, and presents findings from interviews and focus groups with a range of frontline practitioners and experts.

Adfam and Meg Munn MP are leading calls for:

  • Enhanced national learning from succession of child ingestion incidents
  • Improved awareness and data collection on children ingesting drugs prescribed for their parents/carers
  • Effective implementation of NICE guidance on protecting children when making decisions about parents’ prescriptions

On launching the report, Adfam Chief Executive Vivienne Evans said:

“Just one of these cases would be one case too many, but this research shows that they have happened with depressing regularity over the last decade. The cases are frequent and similar enough that we should be much louder and more honest about the risks of methadone to children. We need a more proactive and nationally coordinated plan to tackle these risks, rather than waiting for every area in the country to experience a tragedy before anyone takes action.

Medications and recovery aren’t mutually exclusive and we are very supportive of substitution treatment. However, safeguarding should be first and foremost in professionals’ minds when working with parents who use drugs and alcohol, and the report suggests this isn’t always the case.”

Blenheim fully endorses the view expressed by Adfam’s CEO.

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