SHELBY COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - An alarming new study says the number of kids going to emergency rooms because of opioid overdoses has doubled since 2004.
And some of these kids are as young as six.
The new study discovered the number of children, aged 1 to 17 overdosing on opioids, is on the rise.
One local drug commander said the only way to change that statistic is to create drug awareness.
That means law enforcement, community leaders, and parents talking to kids about the dangers.
The study published in the journal, Pediatrics, showed between 2012 and 2015, the number of child patients admitted to hospitals for opioid overdoses skyrocketed to over 1,500.
That's up from 797 patients between 2004 and 2007.
"Tragically, those numbers are not surprising and it is a plausible study," said Commander of the Shelby County Drug Task Force, Clay Hammac.
Lt. Hammac said the culture we live in is perpetuating the opoid crisis we're experiencing now.
"I believe that there is such a casual approach to issuing prescription painkillers, prescription opioids," he said. "And I'm not saying this for every clinician, but there is a small number of clinicians, physicians out there, in the Birmingham area, who will put profit over patient care."
He said the overabundance of prescription painkillers in the community makes it easy for young kids to have access to opioids.
"Whether it's through their parent's medicine cabinets, their grandparent's medicine cabinets, or a friend of a friend who knows how to get their hands on it," said Lt. Hammac.
He said most kids falsely believe if it's prescribed by a doctor, it can't be harmful to you.
Lt. Hammac added the responsibility lies on law enforcement, parents, and teachers to send the right message.
"Don't put this conversation off any longer," he said. "It's now time to have an age-appropriate conversation with your student to make sure that they're aware of the dangers associated with drug addiction and abuse."
Compact 2020 partners with the drug task force to go to Shelby County schools and teach about the dangers of drug use and abuse.
To learn more about Compact 2020, click here.