Single-Dose Packaging of Buprenorphine Found Best at Preventing Toddler Use

Thousands of children in the U.S. are hospitalized every year for accidentally overdosing on their relatives’ opioid drugs, such as buprenorphine. But new evidence suggests that certain types of drug packaging may help reduce children’s exposure to these potent painkillers and lower the risk for overdose. The study was published in the latest issue of the online journal Pediatrics.

Changing Drug Packaging to Prevent Child Tampering


Between 2000 and 2015, U.S. poison control centers received more than 100,000 calls about kids under the age of five being exposed to opioids. A total of 68 kids died during that time from accidental poisoning and overdoses involving opioids.

For this latest study, researchers from pediatrics children’s hospitals in Colorado examined data from poison control centers to identify cases where children had accidentally ingested buprenorphine-naloxone combination products. The purpose of the study was to determine which types of drug packaging increased the risk for accidental ingestion among kids.

The findings revealed that before single-dose packaging was introduced, roughly 21 in every 100,000 children under the age of six were accidentally exposed to buprenorphine. During the period when multiple-dose packaging was transitioning to single-dose packaging, that number decreased to nine in every 100,000 children. After single-dose packaging became more widely available, this number decreased even further to four in every 100,000 children.

At the end of the study, researchers learned that single-dose packaging for buprenorphine led to a 79% decrease in unintentional opioid poisoning among children. Today, over 80% of buprenorphine-naloxone combination products are available in single-dose packaging.

The Importance of Storing Drugs in the Home Safely

While changing drug packaging may help lower the rate of accidental drug poisonings among children, this action shouldn’t replace parents’ efforts to keep drugs away from children. Medicines and prescription drugs should always be locked away and stored out of reach of children to prevent abuse among relatives, friends, and visitors to the home.

Children exposed to drug use early on whether intentional or unintentional are often at higher risk for addiction later in life. Drugs including opioids like buprenorphine can alter brain chemistry and interfere with a child’s developing brain. Drug exposure at an early age increases the risk for mental health and behavioral disorders, along with learning disabilities surrounding reading, writing, language skills, and impulse control.

If you are using buprenorphine or any other dangerous drugs with children in the home, store your drugs in a locked safe, or in another place where they cannot be accessed by others. Consider switching to single-dose packaging if available, since this packaging is shown to offer the lowest risk for child-tampering. Opioid overdoses among children have nearly doubled in the last 10 years, but storing your drugs safely can prevent these deadly drugs from falling into the hands of your own kids.

Using Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Dependence

Buprenorphine is primarily used to treat opioid dependence in those recovering from opioid use disorder. The drug replaces heroin and other opioids of abuse to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. Those who use buprenorphine as part of an opioid detox treatment can safely and comfortably recover from opioid addiction without suffering severe cravings, nausea, and other symptoms.

Buprenorphine is often paired with therapy to treat the underlying root causes of opioid addiction — a treatment method known as medication-assisted treatment. MAT for opioid addiction is now available at many drug detox centers to help you or a loved one achieve lifelong sobriety from opioids.

Ready to begin your recovery journey? Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) to learn about available treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

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