Opioids fuel hike in teen overdose deaths

Barsaba Taglieri
Agosto 16, 2017

A new US Government report has revealed that teen deaths, as a result of drug overdose, are on an increase after years of decline.

Adult overdose deaths in the USA have soared and until 2014, the drop in teen deaths was considered a bright spot. The rate of teen overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids has increased sevenfold from 0.1 deaths per 100,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2002 to 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.

Most of the overdose deaths were unintentional and driven primarily by opioids, including both prescribed painkillers such as oxycodone and illicit drugs such as heroin and street fentanyl.

The data is from the latest survey of the National Vital Statistics System and researchers recorded 772 deaths from overdose for adolescents aged 15 to 19 in the year 2015. The paper found that five, 10 and 14 percent of youths in grades eight, 10 and 12 reported using drugs in the a year ago.

Health expert said it's likely teen overdoses edged up in 2015 because of the increasing availability of newer and more lethal kinds of opioids like fentanyl, which is sometimes mixed with heroin. According to ABC News, this problem is far more prevalent in adults than teenagers. That represents just 1.4% of the 52,404 people who died of drug overdoses that same year.

To their surprise, CDC researchers found that teen overdose deaths actually fell after 2008, and dropped as low as about 3 per 100,000 during 2012 through 2014.

While some experts believe that the decline is also related to time spent on social media and smartphones, the drop is in fact in line with the reduction in teenage sex, drinking, smoking and drug abuse. However, in 2015, the boys' rate rose to 4.6 from four in the previous year. Though small, it was the highest overdose death rate for girls since at least 1979, Curtin said.

"If the drugs are more potent, your chances of it (drug use) being fatal have perhaps increased", Curtin said.

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