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Health Canada warns against giving opioid-containing cough, cold meds to youth

Usage could lead to problems later in life

The federal government is warning parents and doctors against allowing kids and teens to use cough and cold medications with opioids in them.

The advisory was issued by Health Canada Monday morning and cited a review of cough and cold prescription drugs which found the “early use of opioids may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life.”

The review did not link opioid-containing medication use in youth with substance abuse problems in teens’ later years, but in adulthood.

“Given the lack of strong data on effectiveness and the potential for longer-term risks, the department is taking action to advise Canadians about the risks of these products,” the advisory said.

Health Canada said there are three prescription opioids used to treat coughs and colds in the country: codeine, hydrocodone, and normethadone.

Low-dose codeine is also available in over-the-counter medication and the agency is undertaking a review of those as well.

Health Canada said the use of prescription cough and cold products containing opioids has fallen among youth in the past five years. Just four per cent of total cough and cold prescriptions with opioids were prescribed to teens and kids.

The agency is asking manufactures to update their product information to reflect the new advisory.

The alert comes as more than 9,000 people nation-wide died of opioid-related overdoses between January 2016 and June 2018. In B.C. alone, 1,489 were killed by the overdose crisis in 2018 alone.

READ MORE: B.C. opioid overdoses still killing four people a day, health officials say

READ MORE: B.C. organ donors who tested positive for fentanyl up 26%


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