Curious toddlers find the drugs in a mother's purse or accidentally dropped on the floor. Sometimes a parent fails to secure the child-resistant cap on a bottle of painkillers. No matter how it happens, 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 5 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, the AP reports. In 2000, 14 children in the US under age 5 died after ingesting opioids. By 2015, that number climbed to 51, according to the CDC.
Each family who loses a toddler to opioids confronts a death that probably could have been prevented. Here are a few of their stories:
- Cataleya Tamekia-Damiah Wimberly couldn't sit still. She spent most of her first birthday party in Milwaukee dancing and diving into the cake. But her first birthday party was also her last. Nearly three weeks later, she was found dead of a cause her mother never suspected—a methadone overdose. Her father found her unresponsive the morning of Feb. 16, 2016. She was at a relative's house at the time, and police are still investigating how she got it.
- At just 2 years old, Londyn Raine Robinson Sack died after ingesting an opioid known as Suboxone that was packaged in the form of a dissolving strip. Prosecutors in New Britain, Connecticut, said the drug was obtained illegally by her mother and was dispensed in a box, not a child-resistant container. Londyn's mother was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and risk of injury to a child in connection with the Oct. 19, 2014, death.
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