For Young People: Opioid Overdose Down, but Suicides Increase

Last Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017

The good news: fewer kids are accidentally overdosing on prescription painkillers each year. But unfortunately, more suicidal teens are turning to the opioids, according to the newly published study, Prescription Opioid Exposures Among Children and Adolescents in the United States 2000-2015. The study uses data collected from poison control center calls to draw its conclusions.

Reported incidents of opioid use by kids have been declining since 2009 after years of steady increase. While the study’s authors don’t know the exact reason for the dip, they mention that the decrease in the number of patients filling opioid prescriptions between 2009 and 2013 might have been a factor.

Throughout the time period covered in the study, the opioid use often – about 70 percent of the time— involved kids under five years old who swallowed an adult’s medication by accident.

The other 30 percent of calls were about teens who purposely abused the drugs. Between 2000 and 2015, of the 175 kids that died from opioid overdose (reported to poison control) – more than half of them were teenagers. And of the teens that died, half are believed to have taken the drugs to commit suicide. Suspected intentional opioid overdose rose over 50 percent between 2000 and 2015.

Read the study, Prescription Opioid Exposures Among Children and Adolescents in the United States: 2000-2015.

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