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Opiate Epidemic Disproportionately Worsening in High School Age Demographic

A pre-print citation in medRxiv is demonstrating a near 100% increase in opiate related deaths in the high school age demographic (ages 14-18) from 2019 to 2020 alone.  Illicitly manufactured fentanyl once again appears to be the usual suspect.  This study calculated drug overdose deaths by 5 year age groups over the 11 year period from 2010 to 2021 but also compared racial and regional differences . 

American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) adolescents, Latinx adolescents, and adolescents in the West census region within the high school age demographic were disproportionately affected, overdose death rates 2.15, 1.31, and 1.68 times the national average in 2021, respectively.  Fatalities involving fentanyl tripled from 2019 to 2020 representing over 3/4 of adolescent overdose deaths in 2021.

These findings again reinforce the premise that adolescents are particularly susceptible to opiate addiction.  While these finding implicate illicitly manufactured fentanyl as the most common cause of death, it cannot be emphasized enough the need for clinicians to reduce exposure to prescription opiates as gateway drugs to street opiates.

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