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American Adolescents Are a Growing Part of Opioid Crisis, Study Findings



Ain the midst of a crisis of opioid overdose that is accelerating in the United States, vulnerable groups that are largely ignored are children. That changed with new research at JAMA Network Open, which revealed that deaths from opioid overdoses have increased dramatically among children and adolescents over the past two decades.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected data on deaths from opioid overdoses for years, but the incidence of overdose among different age groups is not often studied.

In a paper published Friday, the research team analyzed CDC data found that nearly 9,000 people younger than 20 years died of prescription and illegal opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2016. During this period, the researchers observed, the death rate increased by 268.2 percent .

"What began more than two decades ago as a public health problem especially among middle-aged white men and is now an epidemic of prescription and illegal opioid abuse that takes its toll on all segments of US society, including the children's population," wrote the study author, led by Julie Gaither, Ph.D., MPH, RN, a general pediatric instructor at Yale Medical School. "Millions of children and adolescents are now routinely exposed to their homes, schools and communities for these powerful and addictive medicines."

This graph shows (A) how many people under 20 years died in the US because of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2016, and (B) related mortality rates during the same period.
This graph shows (A) how many people under 20 years died in the US because of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2016, and (B) related mortality rates during the same period.

As Upside down reported back in March, a study in the journal Pediatrics showed that the number of children and adolescents who were hospitalized due to opioid overdoses doubled between 2004 and 2015. New JAMA Open Network Studies are based on this work by breaking down data for further populations.


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