Teen drug overdose death rate climbed 19% in one year

Image New England Towns Struggle With Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

Deaths involving opioids more than tripled from 1999 (0.8 per 100,000) to 2007 (2.7 per 100,000) but leveled off between 2007 and 2011 until they increased between 2014 and 2015 (2.4 per 100,000).

The CDC found that the death rate among people between the ages of 15 and 19, increased by 15 percent in 2015, after falling steadily for seven years. However, in 2015 (the most recent year with data available), the deaths increased again, by 19 percent.

Deaths among teenagers represent a tiny portion of drug overdose deaths nationally - less than 2%. Those deaths included about 500 males and nearly 300 females. The CDC released the report Wednesday focusing on adolescents aged 15 to 19.

Once a minor player in the drug crisis, the man-made narcotic - about 50 times stronger than heroin - is directly linked to thousands of overdoses and a shocking rise in fatalities nationwide, a trend that is particularly noticeable in the nation's urban areas.

Levounis pointed out that, "The vast majority of adolescent deaths from opioids are due to unintentional overdose". It is unclear how many deaths in Salem were connected to fentanyl.

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"This is a warning sign that we need to keep paying attention to what's happening with young people", said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues who wasn't part of the study.

The report findings are "disheartening but not surprising", said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Indeed, fewer teens reported even trying drugs. That number grew to 25 percent in 2015, said Levy, who was not involved with the report.

"If the drugs are more potent, your chances of it (drug use) being fatal have perhaps increased", Curtin said. "They come from all over the world and as soon as something is deemed illegal as far as a synthetic chemical compound, it's just changed up a little more and our bodies are now made to take in this what you would call synthetic drug", said Villerreal. One possible reason could be the newer drugs that are more lethal forms of opioids.

Overdoses are increasing in young people.

Ciccarone said the federal government should follow the recommendations of the White House's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

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