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Drug overdose deaths soar among U.S. youth, says study


Drug overdose deaths have increased dramatically among teens and young adults in the United States over the past decade, a recent study by a non-profit health advocacy group says.

The Trust for America’s Health’s Reducing Teen Substance Misuse: What Really Works report paints a grim picture of the drug overdose death rates among people aged 12 to 25 across the U.S., which has more than doubled during the past decade. The death rate has climbed from 3.1 deaths per 100,000 in 1999-2001 to 7.3 in 2011-2013.

The increase in youth drug overdose deaths has been largely attributed to the nation’s prescription drugs epidemic and the rise in heroin use by teens and young adults in the past 10 years. “More than 90 percent of adults who develop a substance use disorder began using before they were 18,” Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, said in a press release.

According to the report, the rise in prescription painkillers misuse has been a major contributing factor to the increase in heroin use by teens and young adults. A rising number of young people addicted to prescription drugs is switching to heroin as it’s cheaper and easier to access. And 45 percent of people who use heroin are also addicted to prescription painkillers, the report says. “These twin epidemics have contributed to the recent tragic rise in overdose deaths,” Levi added.

The report noted a considerable rise in death toll from drugs in 35 states. The rates have soared in specific regions of the U.S.

According to the report, West Virginia had the highest rate of drug overdoses from 2011 to 2013, at 12.6 deaths per 100,000, well above the national average. On the other hand, North Dakota had the lowest rate at 2.2 deaths per 100,000. In five states – Kansas, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming – overdose death rates more than quadrupled.

Between 1999-2001 and 2011-2013, drug overdose deaths more than tripled in 12 states (Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia), while in 18 states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee) drug death rates more than doubled, the report says.

According to the report, drug overdose was the major cause of injury death in 2013, which surpassed even fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. In the same year, prescription drugs were also responsible for more than half of all drug overdose deaths (22,700 fatalities), of which 71.3 percent involved opioid painkillers alone. The report further states that males were more than twice as likely to die of a drug overdose as females and young adults (19 to 25) are at a higher risk of a fatal overdose.

The report focuses on 10 indicators of policy strategies that could help prevent and reduce substance abuse among the American youth. The programs range from supporting healthier schools and communities to limiting access to substances as well as providing positive support and treatment.

Sovereign Health Group offers detoxification treatment for substance abuse, including narcotic abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 855-683-9756 for more information.

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