Pandemic Brought Surge in Teen Drug Overdose Deaths


By Steven Reinberg 

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 20, 2022 (HealthDay Information) — Deaths of teenagers from drug overdoses soared beginning in late 2019, and although they seem like on the decline, they continue to be a lot greater than in 2019, U.S. well being officers report.

Most of those deaths are because of illegally made fentanyl combined with different medication, mentioned examine creator Lauren Tanz, an epidemiologist on the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

“Adolescent overdose deaths elevated considerably between 2019 and 2021; nonetheless, these deaths are preventable, and overdoses don’t have to finish in demise,” Tanz mentioned. “All of us play a job as mother and father, members of the family, mates and communities to forestall overdoses and save lives.”

Utilizing information from the CDC’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System, the researchers discovered that overdose deaths amongst 10- to 19-year-olds started to rise in late 2019. Amongst 14- to 18-year-olds, overdose deaths jumped 94% from 2019 to 2020 because the COVID-19 pandemic raged on.

Between the second half of 2019 and the second half of 2021, month-to-month overdose deaths amongst teenagers jumped a median 109%, Tanz mentioned. These involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl rose 182%. (Median means half of months had greater charges, half decrease.)

About 9 in 10 overdose deaths concerned no less than one opioid, greater than 8 in 10 concerned illicitly manufactured fentanyl, and almost one-quarter concerned counterfeit drugs, based on the report.

The provision of fentanyl has pushed the surge in overdose deaths, based on Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Over the previous few years, there was a marked growth within the drug provide of illicit fentanyl, an affordable, very potent artificial opioid drug,” she mentioned. “Whereas folks might hunt down fentanyl deliberately in some instances, many individuals aren’t conscious whether or not the drug they’re utilizing comprises fentanyl, which might put them at excessive threat of overdosing.”

The surge of fentanyl within the drug provide is of monumental concern, Volkow mentioned, particularly the contamination of counterfeit drugs made to resemble pharmaceuticals corresponding to ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity dysfunction) medicines, sleep aids or painkillers.

“It’s completely essential to teach younger those that drugs bought by way of social media, given to somebody by a good friend or obtained from an unknown supply might include lethal fentanyl,” Volkow mentioned.

Psychological sickness additionally contributed to the surge, Tanz mentioned.

Greater than 40% of teenagers who died from a drug overdose had a historical past of a psychological sickness, corresponding to despair or suicidal or self-harm conduct, or had been handled for a psychological well being situation, the researchers discovered.

“Our outcomes present that overdose deaths amongst adolescents continued to rise from January to June 2020, coinciding with the pandemic’s onset, and was probably associated to declining psychological well being,” Tanz mentioned. Social isolation and lack of entry to school-based psychological well being companies might also have performed a job.

Linda Richter, vice chairman for prevention analysis and evaluation on the Partnership to Finish Dependancy, in New York Metropolis, mentioned, “This report must be a wake-up name to all households, communities, educators, well being professionals, policymakers and younger folks themselves that what was an opioid epidemic is now a fentanyl disaster inflicting an unacceptable variety of fully preventable deaths amongst youngsters.” She was not concerned within the examine however reviewed the findings.

“These deaths are rising as unlawful drug use is usually declining amongst youth, which signifies that it’s not that extra teenagers are utilizing harmful medication, however somewhat that those that are utilizing the medication are more and more prone to die from them,” Richter mentioned.

Volkow struck the same chord.

“Drug use amongst adolescents is changing into extra harmful, however not essentially extra widespread,” she mentioned.

Researcher Tanz mentioned steps to forestall overdose deaths are urgently wanted. These embody:

  • Selling prevention.
  • Monitoring threat behaviors, corresponding to poor college efficiency and teenagers associating with others who use medication; selling constructive social and life abilities; and enhancing well-being.
  • Educating teenagers concerning the risks of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and counterfeit drugs.
  • Educating household and mates on methods to acknowledge warning indicators of drug use.
  • Studying how to reply to an overdose.
  • Coaching family and friends to make use of naloxone, a medication used to quickly reverse an opioid overdose, and increasing entry to it.
  • Making certain entry to efficient therapy for psychological well being issues and substance abuse.

The examine was printed Dec. 16 within the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Extra data

The U.S. Division of Well being and Human Providers has extra about stopping drug overdoses.


SOURCES: Lauren Tanz, ScD, MSPH, epidemiologist, U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, Atlanta; Nora Volkow, MD, director, U.S. Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse; Linda Richter, PhD, vice chairman, prevention analysis and evaluation, Partnership to Finish Dependancy, New York Metropolis; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 16, 2022


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