Ohio Parents Arrested After 8-Year-Old Son Overdoses On Heroin

By Kelly Burch 02/21/17

Hospital staff discovered a small bag of heroin and prescription pills tucked into the boy’s sock. 

Couple behind bars.

An Ohio couple have been arrested and charged with child endangerment after their 8-year-old son overdosed on heroin last month. 

Charles Dowdy and Danielle Simko were each held on $150,000 bond after being arrested at the hospital where their son was treated, according to The Washington Post

On January 11, police responded to a 911 call about a child not breathing in Berea, a suburb of Cleveland. When they arrived they found the boy unresponsive and Dowdy doing chest compressions on him. The police also found drugs and syringes in the home. 

Dowdy said that he and Simko had been in bed with their son when they noticed his lips turning blue. 

The boy was brought to the hospital, where staff discovered a small bag of heroin and prescription pills tucked into the boy’s sock. Dowdy said that he had used drugs in the home earlier in the day. Both parents were arrested in the hospital. It was not clear from reports how or when the boy ingested the heroin.

Reports of children accidentally overdosing on opioids have become alarmingly common as opioid use continues at record-high rates. In January, a Wisconsin mother was charged after her two-year-old child died of a suspected heroin overdose. 

Last year a study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that the number of minors who overdosed on opioid pain pills has nearly tripled in recent years. For children under the age of 19, poisonings rose 165% between 1997 and 2012, and have likely continued to rise as opioid use has increased. Heroin poisonings increased 161%. Over that period, more than 13,000 children were hospitalized for opioid-related poisonings. 

"Opioids are ubiquitous now," Julie Gaither, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale School of Public Health and the study's lead author, told NPR. "Enough opioids are prescribed every year to put a bottle of painkillers in every household. They're everywhere, and kids are getting into them.”

Doctors who prescribe pain pills and family pediatricians should all talk to patients about safely storing opioids out of the reach of children. Unfortunately, those practices would do little to protect children who overdose on heroin or illegal prescription pills, highlighting the grim toll the opioid epidemic is having on all ages. 

"We've got to pay attention to children and the toll the opioid crisis is taking on them," says Gaither. "Kids make up about a fourth of the U.S. population, and they're suffering from this crisis, too."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.