Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is used medically to treat severe pain. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly popular as a recreational drug due to its potency and easy availability. Unfortunately, this trend has had devastating consequences, particularly among children and teens in the United States.
Fentanyl deaths among children and teens have been on the rise in recent years. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 98 fentanyl-related deaths among children aged 15 and under in 2018, and according to epidemiologist Julie Gaither of the Yale School of Medicine more than 1,500 kids under 20 lost their lives from fentanyl in 2021. The data is presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Washington, D.C. This represents a sharp increase from previous years.
One of the main reasons for the increase in fentanyl-related deaths among children and teens is the availability of the drug on the streets. Fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, without the user’s knowledge, making it much more dangerous.
Even small amounts of fentanyl can be lethal (30 to 50 times), and children and teens are often more susceptible to overdose due to their smaller size and lower tolerance.
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“That’s primarily the story of what’s happening among teenagers,” said pediatrician and addiction provider Sarah Bagley of the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine in a report.
Some of the signs a victim of an overdose are losing consciousness, gurgling or choking sounds, falling asleep, and weak or no breathing. Death in adults by Fentanyl climbed to more than 70,000 in the United States of over 106,000 drug overdose fatalities in 2021.
Another factor contributing to the increase in fentanyl deaths among children and teens is the lack of awareness and education about the dangers of the drug. Many young people are unaware of the risks associated with fentanyl use and may be more likely to experiment with the drug as a result.
Efforts are being made to address the problem of fentanyl deaths among children and teens. These include increased education and awareness campaigns aimed at young people and their families, as well as enhanced law enforcement efforts to crack down on the illegal distribution of the drug.
In addition, there is a growing push for expanded access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available in many states without a prescription and can be administered by non-medical personnel in emergency situations.
Fentanyl-related deaths among children and teens in the United States have been on the rise in recent years. The availability of the drug on the streets and the lack of awareness and education about its dangers are contributing factors.
Efforts are being made to address the problem, including increased education and awareness campaigns, enhanced law enforcement efforts, and expanded access to naloxone. It is crucial that these efforts continue to ensure the safety and well-being of young people across the country.