Teen Opioid Use on the Decline
While the United States is still in the grips of an opioid epidemic, opioid use among teens—including accidental poisonings and hospitalizations—appears to be on the decline, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The study's findings are cause for cautious optimism, its authors argue, as the decrease in teen opioid use comes on the heels of 15 years (1997 to 2012) when hospitalization rates for opioid exposures nearly doubled for American teenagers.
One factor in the decline may be positive fallout from a 2009 initiative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce accidental medication overdoses in children. But the study also found that despite declines in overall opioid use, teens still had triple the odds of serious medical problems from opioids versus the odds faced by children under 5 years old. A central reason for that disparity seems to be that most teenagers who end up hospitalized as the result of opioid poisoning have taken the drugs intentionally, while younger children often ingest smaller doses while in "an exploratory stage."
Despite the recent downturn in teen opioid use, however, "drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States," according to the CDC. "Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled," and "91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose."
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