More U.S. teens died of drug overdose in 2015 than they did the year before, according to a report released Aug. 16 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From 2014 to 2015, the rate of drug overdose deaths among adolescents aged 15 to 19 increased by nearly 20 percent. In 2015, more than 770 teens in this age group died of drug overdose. The majority of overdose deaths among this demographic were accidental.
“This is a public health crisis,” Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told The Washington Times.
Overdose death rates involving opioids, specifically heroin, were higher than those of other substances. In fact, the rate of heroin overdose deaths among this group in 2015 was three times higher than it was in 1999.
According to the report, the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths among adolescents aged 15 to 19 remained steady from 2012 to 2014 but increased from 2014 to 2015. Among this group, the overdose death rates involving synthetic opioids excluding methadone rose significantly from 2014 to 2015.
Synthetic opioids are drugs with a similar chemical structure to natural opioids such as morphine, but they are manufactured in chemical laboratories. This line of drugs includes fentanyl, tramadol and meperidine.
The drug overdose death rate involving cocaine among this age group rose between 1999 and 2006. After declining in 2009, cocaine-related overdose deaths leveled off from 2009 to 2013 and then climbed again from 2013 to 2015.
The CDC report comes amid an opioid epidemic in the United States. A number of states have issued a public health crisis related to opioid abuse, and President Donald Trump recently called the drug epidemic a national health emergency.
“This is a warning sign that we need to keep paying attention to what’s happening with young people,” Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues who wasn’t involved in the study, told The Associated Press.
The overdose death rate for male and female teens aged 15 to 19 increased between 1999 and the mid-2000s. However, only male teens experienced statistical declines in overdose death rates from 2007 to 2014. From 2014 to 2015, the rate increased by 15 percent among male teens.
The report showed that the overdose death rate among male teens in this demographic peaked in 2007, while female teens experienced their highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, the overdose death rate among female adolescents increased by 35 percent.
Each year from 1999 to 2015, the drug overdose death rate was higher among male teens aged 15 to 19 than it was for female teens in that age group, according to the report. However, in 2015, the rate of drug overdose deaths caused by suicide among female teens was more than double that of male teens.
It’s not just teens who are experiencing drug overdoses. The opioid epidemic has affected people of all ages, and its effect on road safety is a growing problem.
In recent months, images of individuals overdosed in cars have circulated in the media. Vehicular crashes involving overdosing drivers have become more common, and a number of U.S. paramedics have administered naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication, to restore normal respiration in overdose victims.
In Ohio, the number of car crashes involving drugs grew by more than 21 percent from 2013 to 2016, according to the state department of transportation. In 2016, more than 4,600 crashes associated with drug use occurred in the state.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the number of drug-related crashes in the United States more than tripled from 1993 to 2015.
According to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, more U.S. drivers died of drug-impaired driving than of drunk driving in 2015.
Among fatally injured drivers with a known test result, drugs were found in about 43 percent of deceased motorists, while alcohol was present in about 37 percent of them. Evidence of marijuana was found in about 35 percent of positive tests.
“Data in the report showed that for the first time there are more dead drivers for which we have test results that are positive for drugs than there are who were positive for alcohol,” James Hedlund, a safety expert with Highway Safety North in Ithaca, New York, told CNN.