Though we may not like to admit it, the years between middle school and college often represent our first introduction to drugs and alcohol. For many this is considered a time of experimentation and, truth be told, it can be where lifelong addictions begin to form. Unfortunately there are much more dangerous substances out there today then there were a generation ago; which is leading to an increased amount of overdoses among children and teens.
Forbes recently touched upon this topic, putting forth some alarming new stats relating to youth in America. One major red flag concerns the country’s growing opioid addiction epidemic, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of adult lives. Well within the teen and preteen set, this crisis has taken a serious toll as well. New research has revealed that nearly 9,000 high schoolers have died from painkiller overdoses within the past two decades. This includes prescription drugs, as well as illicitly manufactured opiates like fentanyl.
The age group that was most impacted was teens between 15 to 19 years old (basically prime high school age). Within the study period of 1999 to 2017, their OD fatality rates shot up by 252 percent. Even more tragic was the significant amount of deaths tied to children aged 0-4. Yes the crisis is wreaking havoc on them too, primarily because of negligent parents who leave their substances in places where young toddlers can gain access.
Forbes also revealed that heroin use is on the rise among teens and poses one of the biggest threats when it comes to OD’ing. Using needles also opens up a host of other risks, including the contraction of Hepatitis C and HIV. Other stats from the study pointed to males being the primary teenage overdose victims (roughly 73 percent), most of whom were identified as non-Hispanic white.
Another research point that we found interesting was the fact that most of these youth-related overdose deaths occurred at home. This could open the door to multiple scenarios. Perhaps these children were getting into their parents’ stash? Perhaps they were experiencing isolation or other types of teenage angst? Whatever the reasoning, it proves how essential alert parenting can be in an era like this. Though it may seem uncomfortable, we highly encourage anyone with children in the house to ask questions and pay attention to behavioral changes.
And of course, as Forbes emphasized, let’s do our best to keep the kids as educated as possible on the dangers of these drugs. Melissa Moore, Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told the site that children of all ages should be made aware of addiction and the recovery resources that are available to them.
“I really want to emphasize the importance of providing evidence- based drug education for young people that builds their critical thinking skills,” she explained. “This study underscores the importance of making harm reduction services available to anyone who needs them, and the importance of lowering barriers to treatment for all age groups,”