A shocking in-depth analysis of poison center data shows that more than 1 in 4 opioid overdoses involved teenagers, and 20 percent of those were likely suicide attempts.
The analysis conducted by researchers with Emory University’s School of Medicine in Atlanta delved into nearly 754,000 cases of opioid overdose that occurred between 2005 and 2018. Almost 208,000 of them involved children 18 years of age or younger. The risk of a teenager dying from an overdose also rose in that time, from 0.18% in 2005 to 28% in 2018.
Equally disturbing, says study author Dr. Megan Land, “the proportion of children with suspected suicide due to an opioid poisoning increased dramatically over our study period,” from less than 14% in 2005 to 21% in 2018. That dramatic increase “echoes findings in recent studies demonstrating the incidence and rate of pediatric suicide attempts by [opioid] poisonings has been rising since 2011,” she added
More than half of opioid overdoses in young people involved preschoolers who accidentally ingested opioids, a statistic that drives home public health messages that urge parents and caregivers to keep prescription medications out of a child’s reach.
“It’s never too early to protect children from the potentially life-threatening harms of addictive substances,” said Lind Richter, director of policy research and analysis with the Center on Addiction. “If common-sense recommendations for keeping all opioid and other addictive products out of sight and reach of children are followed, the number of children accidentally exposed to opioids and their harmful effects can and should be zero and the number of teens who access these drugs intentionally would be greatly reduced.”
Despite the worrisome numbers, Land also found that the percentage of overdoses among young people has trended downward since peaking in 2010. But the fact that the problem exists shows that more needs to be done to protect youth from opioids. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told U.S. News and World Report we should “educate our children about the dangers of opioids, and how even ‘experimentation’ can lead to addiction.”
Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section are representing local governments holding opioid companies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages in their communities caused by the opioid crisis. Attorneys are also investigating cases of serious injuries and illness – including addiction and overdose – related to opioid use and abuse, as well as cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in babies born to mothers addicted to opioids. For more information, contact Melissa Prickett or Liz Eiland.