Detectives are investigating an incident that sent a 3-year-old boy to the hospital last week after he ingested an unknown drug found outside his home in the Iowa City Regency Mobile Home Community.
The toddler’s father thought his son had found illicit drugs in a nearby abandoned trailer, and he rushed the child to the hospital, said Johnson County sheriff’s detective Sgt. James Roberts.
“It is my understanding that when the child came in from playing outside, and within a few minutes the father observed the child not behaving normally,” Roberts said. “He had increased lethargy, and as that progressed, (the father) became more concerned.”
When the father returned home, according to Roberts, he searched the area the child had been playing in and found some items that he misidentified as being related to illicit drugs. Detectives reviewed the suspect items and determined they were not drug related, Robert said.
“A thorough search was done of the child’s play area, and no drugs were found, and there was no trace of what the child had ingested,” Roberts said.
Tests showed the child had swallowed some type of prescription medication – possibly an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication or a pain killer, according to Roberts.
“The incident is not related to the abandoned trailer or any type of drug trade,” Roberts said. “What we have here is a child who found something in the yard or in the street while playing outside, and he ate it thinking it was candy.”
The child was not seriously harmed and was doing fine Friday evening, Roberts said. The Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Human Services are continuing to investigate the situation, evaluating information to determine where the drugs might have come from, according to Roberts.
“Our concern is that it might have been discarded or fallen from someone passing by or someone in the yard,” he said. “If that’s the case, it will be really difficult to determine whose prescription that came from.”
The living space in that community is “very tight,” Roberts said.
“It could have come from along the street. It could have come from the yard,” he said. “There is a lot of foot traffic through that community.”
And, Roberts said, just because the drugs were prescription rather than illicit doesn’t mean they weren’t being used or obtained illegally.
“It would be very nice if we could identify the source of the medication,” he said.
Roberts said the Sheriff’s Office is warning people both to watch young children carefully who might put things in their mouth and to be cautious about the prescription medication they carry.
“People who carry prescription medication should take care that those items don’t fall into the hands of young children because they have fallen out of a pocket or because the child can get access to a container,” he said.
Even though the toddler in this case is doing well, Robert said, even a normal adult dose taken by a young child could create a “significant health risk.”