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Unintentional overdoses spiked among adolescents during pandemic

Mortality due to overdose reached an all-time high among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years in 2020 amid the pandemic, researchers reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Healio, Sep 15, 2022

Orman Trent Hall, DO, an addiction specialist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University, and colleagues quantified the impact of overdose mortality among adolescents from 2016 to 2020.

Using years of life lost (YLL) - an epidemiological estimate of premature death - the authors projected YLL through data obtained from CDC's data for epidemiologic research mortality file for the 5-year span. YLL was calculated using the Social Security Period of Life Table by age and year, the authors reported.

In 2020, YLL to unintentional overdose was 84,179, surpassing the total for cancer. Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, contributed to 81% (68,356 YLL) of overdose deaths in 2020 , compared with 67% (n = 26,628 YLL) in 2019.

Additionally, YLL to unintentional overdose was higher in men and boys (59,274), compared with women and girls (24,905).

"The trends depicted in this study signify the need for increased harm-reduction approaches and treatment of opioid use disorder in adolescents," Hall said in a release from the university.

"The death of a single adolescent to accidental drug overdose is unacceptable," Hall said. "We have sounded the alarm. Now it is time to start putting out the fire. We hope this study will spur public health officials into action. Our society has to prioritize these young lives."

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