Opioids killed almost 9000 kids and teens from 1999-2016, study says

Most of the deaths were unintentional, the report found — speaking to how dangerous these addictive substances can be.

By Reed Alexander


Nearly 9000 children and teens in the US died as a result of opioid poisoning from 1999 to 2016, says a new report published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The mortality rate attributed to opioid poisoning among youth skyrocketed by some 268.2% during that period.

According to the report’s opioid abuse statistics, as many as four in five of these opioid-related deaths were unintentional, while five percent were suicides and just over two percent homicides. The younger the child, the seemingly worse the outcome: One in four deaths among children five and under was ruled a homicide; rates among infants were even higher, with one in three classified as such.

The report noted how lethal heroin overdoses accounted for as many as 1872 of the deaths among adolescents ages 15 to 19 during the time period that the study was conducted.

“Over 18 years, nearly 9000 children and adolescents died from opioid poisonings, and the mortality rate increased nearly 3-fold,” the authors of the study wrote in the JAMA report. “These findings suggest that the opioid epidemic is likely to remain a growing public health problem in the young unless legislators, public health officials, clinicians, and parents take a wider view of the opioid crisis and implement protective measures that are pediatric specific and family centered.”


Opioid Poisoning


The report has emerged at a time when the national discourse around substance abuse is reaching a fever pitch. According to President Trump, who has signed into law multiple bills aimed at combating the crisis, the US is facing a “national emergency” related to the consumption of opioids, while a recent CDC report says the number of deaths caused by illicit drug overdose continues to climb.

According to the CDC’s drug overdose statistics, the number of overdose-related deaths nationwide grew by 54% per annum during the years from 2011 to 2016, and separate data indicated that as many as 72,000 people passed away from the scourge in 2017.

As far as the newly-released JAMA findings pertaining to opioid poisoning among children and teens, the authors of the research issued a foreboding warning about the current predicament that America’s youth face in dealing with these dangerous substances.

“What began more than 2 decades ago as a public health problem primarily among young and middle-aged white males is now an epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid abuse that is taking a toll on all segments of US society, including the pediatric population,” they concluded. “Millions of children and adolescents are now routinely exposed in their homes, schools, and communities to these potent and addictive drugs.”