New Report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Reveals Nation is Failing to Protect Babies and Preschoolers from Addictive Substances | Center on Addiction

New Report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Reveals Nation is Failing to Protect Babies and Preschoolers from Addictive Substances

New Report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Reveals Nation is Failing to Protect Babies and Preschoolers from Addictive Substances

More than 30,000 Children Under Age 6 Exposed to Toxic Effects of Marijuana, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine, Prescription Medications and Illicit Drugs in 2016

New York, N.Y., April 10, 2018

Today, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)* released a new report titled, Childhood Poisoning: Safeguarding Young Children from Addictive Substances, which outlines the unacceptably high rates at which young children are exposed to toxic, addictive products. Based on data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) and other sources, this report provides a comprehensive approach to addressing the problem of childhood poisonings – an underestimated consequence of America’s current addiction epidemic. In doing so, it also underscores why it is never too early to practice effective prevention.

Over the past decade, increasing numbers of young children have experienced serious consequences from exposure to addictive substances including marijuana edibles, now widely available due to legalization across the U.S.; opioids, currently contributing to the nation’s largest addiction crisis in history; and nicotine, also more accessible than ever due to the popularity of e-cigarettes. In 2016 alone, there were 30,520 reports made to poison control centers of young children exposed to addictive substances. These exposures can result in long-term or life-threatening effects such as seizures, respiratory problems and, in extreme cases, death.

“We know from our research that prevention matters and must start in the home and the doctor’s office. It is never too early to protect children from the potentially life-threatening harms of addictive substances and addiction,” said Creighton Drury, CASA President. “We are committed to getting the word out about important prevention resources that will ultimately contribute to ending our nation’s number one public health problem.”  

Additional key findings related to children age five and younger highlighted in this report include:

  • The rate of exposures to marijuana increased by 148 percent over an eight-year period.
  • The rate of exposures to prescription opioid pain relievers increased 93 percent each year over a nine-year period corresponding to the opioid epidemic’s progression.
  • Calls to poison control centers about e-cigarettes increased by more than 1,400 percent over just three years.
  • The number of young children exposed to alcoholic beverages has increased every year since 2012.

Fortunately, there is hope: these exposures are easily preventable.

“Our nation is currently experiencing an addiction crisis and children are the youngest victims,” said Linda Richter, Ph.D., Director of Policy Research and Analysis at CASA and lead researcher on the report. “Babies and preschoolers should not be getting their hands on nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, heroin or prescription medications. If the recommendations in this report are followed, the number of children exposed to these substances can and should be zero.”

Within this report, parents, health care professionals, policymakers, industry and researchers can find concrete guidance for keeping children healthy and safe from accidental poisoning by addictive substances.

“Every day our nation’s 55 poison control centers receive calls from people who are concerned that a child they care about has touched or ingested something harmful,” said Stephen T. Kaminski, J.D., AAPCC C.E.O. and Executive Director. “The American Association of Poison Control Centers applauds CASA’s latest report. It contains vital recommendations for reducing the number of exposures to and poisonings from addictive substances among young children.”

Tips outlined in the report include:


  • Storing and disposing of all addictive substances, including prescription medications, properly
  • Limiting the amount of addictive products in the home
  • Setting a good example for children when it comes to addictive substance use
  • Saving the phone number for the poison control center in your phone by calling 1-800-222-1222 or texting POISON to 797979 (the nation’s poison control centers are available to help 24/7/365. All calls are answered by poison control specialists and are confidential)
  • Calling the poison control center if exposure to a toxic, addictive substance is suspected
  • Calling 911 immediately if a child is unresponsive or having trouble breathing
  • Providing health care professionals with honest, accurate and detailed information about the potential exposure incident to ensure the child receives the appropriate intervention


  • Asking about addictive substances in the home and counseling patients on safe storage and disposal methods
  • Discussing the dangers of childhood poisoning with parents
  • Conducting a routine test for substances such as marijuana, cocaine, opioids and other drugs any time a young child displays symptoms of a poisoning
  • Considering the recreational and therapeutic drug history of parents to help eliminate or reduce the need for more invasive procedures when a child is sent to an emergency department; this may limit the risk of misdiagnosis and subsequent inappropriate treatment for young patients


  • Improving child-resistant packaging requirements for medications and nicotine, alcohol and marijuana products
  • Regulating non-cigarette nicotine product flavors the same way cigarette flavors are regulated to make them less appealing to young children
  • Requiring legal addictive products to be packaged in small, nonfatal doses
  • Requiring caffeine doses be listed on the label of all caffeinated products
  • Requiring marijuana be sold in child-resistant, opaque, re-sealable packaging (in states where marijuana is legal)
  • Assuring legal immunity for parents who report a child for exposure to an illegal substance to ensure honest and accurate reporting by parents
  • Funding research on ways to prevent childhood poisoning


  • Refraining from advertising or marketing addictive products in ways that appeal to children
  • Warning customers about the potential dangers nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs, marijuana and illegal drugs pose to young children

For additional research findings and further guidance on what can be done to protect the youngest victims of substance use and addiction, download Childhood Poisoning: Safeguarding Young Children from Addictive Substances at

About The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
We are a national nonprofit research and policy organization focused on improving the understanding, prevention and treatment of substance use and addiction. Founded in 1992 by former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., our interdisciplinary experts collaborate with others to promote effective policies and practices. For more information, visit

About American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC)
AAPCC supports the nation’s 55 poison center members in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as HRSA, CDC, FDA and EPA, as well as private industry. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency and download poison control’s contact information today. Call the national Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

Media Contacts
Catherine Tayloe Ross
Media Specialist
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
Phone: (212) 841.5293

Hannah Freedman
Communications and Digital Associate
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
Phone: (212) 841.5206

* The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations, or any other organization with the name of "CASA."


Director of Digital Communications

(212) 841.5225


Media Specialist

(212) 841.5206 ​


Communications and Digital Associate

(212) 841.5206

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