The Opioid Crisis Is Killing Children

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Even though those most at-risk to overdose in this current opioid crisis are typically white men between the ages of 24 and 44, a new study finds that a growing number of children and teenagers are also dying from opioids.

CNN reports on a new study published Friday from the JAMA Network Open journal, which found that nearly 9,000 pediatric deaths between 1999 to 2016 were due to opioids. During that time, the study reads, the mortality rate increased 268.2 percent.

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73 percent of those children and teenagers were male, and 88 percent of them were 15 to 19-year-olds. But children aged 0 to 4 accounted for seven percent of those deaths and those aged 10 to 14 accounted for four percent. Nearly 80 percent of them, in line with data for adult overdoses, were white. Most of these recorded deaths were unintentional, but homicide rates were disturbingly higher among the youngest children. For kids younger than 5, a quarter of their deaths were listed as homicides, which was about 35 percent for infants.

While much has been written about the increasing number of children sent to foster care as a result of parents abusing opioids, the risk of poisoning for kids may be a serious blind spot in conversations about the crisis and how kids are exposed to it. A May 2017 article in Pharmacy Today about a study on opioid storage reported that out of 681 adults, 32.6 percent of survey respondents with young children reported that they stored their medication safely. And the JAMA study points out that it’s one of the first of its kind, because most of the data available on opioid poisonings is about adults.

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Hazel Cills

Pop Culture Reporter, Jezebel