Get Healthy!

  • Posted January 9, 2024

Latest Data Show 22 U.S. Teens Die of Overdoses Each Week

An average of 22 U.S. teens die each week from drug overdoses, a death toll driven by the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, a new study reports.

Researchers also have identified 19 "hotspot"counties where fatal ODs are occurring as much as double the national average.

The overdose death rate for 14- to 18-year-olds now stands at 5.2 deaths per 100,000, researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Essentially, the U.S. teen death count from drug ODs equals a high school classroom felled each week, researchers said.

It's not because there's more drug use among teens, they said. Rates have actually fallen -- from about 21% to 8% of 12th graders using drugs over the past two decades.

Instead, the increase is due to fentanyl found in illicit versions of oxycodone, benzodiazepines and other counterfeit prescription pills.

"Teenagers are likely to be unaware of just how high-risk experimenting with pills has become, given the recent rise in counterfeit tablets"study co-author Joseph Friedman, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a university news release.

"It's often impossible to tell the difference with the naked eye between a real prescription medication obtained from a doctor and a counterfeit version with a potentially deadly dose of fentanyl,"Friedman continued. "It's urgent that teenagers be given accurate information about the real risks, and strategies to keep themselves and their friends safe."

Teen overdoses occurred at double the national average in Arizona, Colorado and Washington state between 2020 and 2022, researchers discovered.

Further, they identified 19 hotspot counties with at least 20 OD deaths and death rates higher than the national average.

Maricopa County in Arizona had the most fatal overdoses with 117, and Los Angeles County followed with 111.

The other 17 counties are Orange County, Calif. (61 deaths); Cook County, Ill. (56); San Bernardino County, Calif. (54); King County, Wash. (52); Riverside County, Calif. (41); San Diego County, Calif. (36); Tarrant County, Texas (35); Clark County, Nev. (31); Kern County, Calif. (30); Pima County, Ariz. (29); Adams County, Colo. (25); Denver County, Colo. (24); Jackson County, Mo. (24); Santa Clara County, Calif. (24); Bernalillo County, N.M. (23); Davidson County, Tenn. (21); and Marion County, Ind. (21).

American Indian and Alaska Native teens had nearly double the OD rates of their white counterparts between 2000 and 2022, researchers found.

Teenagers also are more likely to use illicit drugs that come in pill form rather than powder. For example, about 0.3% of high school seniors reported using powder heroin, while 5% reported using illicit prescription pills.

Given this, the researchers urge doctors, educators and parents to talk frankly about illicit drug use.

The OD-halting drug naloxone also should be available in schools, researchers said.

"Fentanyl has rapidly become a leading cause of death in American teens,"senior researcher Dr. Scott Hadland, chief of adolescent medicine at Mass General for Children, said in a news release. "Policymakers, clinicians, families and communities need to partner together to address this worsening public health threat."

More information

The Partnership to End Addiction has more about preventing drug abuse.

SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, news release, Jan. 6, 2024

Health News is provided as a service to Morganton Drug site users by HealthDay. Morganton Drug nor its employees, agents, or contractors, review, control, or take responsibility for the content of these articles. Please seek medical advice directly from your pharmacist or physician.
Copyright © 2024 HealthDay All Rights Reserved.