LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- They are some of the youngest victims of the opioid crisis.
A newly released study published in the journal "Pediatrics" found the number of children between the ages of one and 17 hospitalized for opioid overdose has nearly doubled since 2004.
Doctors researched admissions to 31 different children's hospitals between 2004 and 2015.
During that study period, more than 3,600 patients were admitted for opioid-related conditions Of those patients, 43% ended up in a pediatric intensive care unit.
According to the study, older children ages 12 to 17 are accounting for more than 60% of the patients admitted for opioid overdose.
People like Samuel Jacobs.
The 19-year-old recovering addict was introduced to painkillers when he had oral surgery at 14 or 15 years old.
"I got addicted real fast," Jacobs said. "I started stealing other peoples prescriptions and it eventually got too expensive – too much work."
He started using heroin when he was 16.
Two years and several overdoses later, Samuel entered The Healing Place at age 18 and he has been sober for about a year.
The study does not specify how many overdoses were from intentional drug-use versus those who accidentally ingested opioid medication, but researchers say many of the younger victims -- between the ages of 1 and 11 -- are likely kids who got into their parents' medication.
Jennifer Stepp of the Bullitt Opioid Addiction Team teaches kids and adults about the dangers of opioids and trains them to use naloxone. She believes it should be a staple in every first-aid kit.
"With the rate of overdoses and what you just heard on this report of children why take the chance? It only takes about 4 minutes to go braindead. Why take that chance? Ever life saved matters."
The authors of this study stressed the importance of overdose prevention, urging parents to keep any opioid medication locked away and out of the reach of children. They also emphasized the importance of disposing of any expired or unneeded medication at pharmacies or other designated drug drop-off locations.