Bottom Line: Nearly 9,000 children and adolescents died from opioid poisonings with prescription and illicit drugs between 1999 and 2016 based on an analysis of national data. The death rate almost tripled over that time to nearly 1 per 100,000 based on the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prescription opioids were implicated in 73 percent of the deaths (6,561) and most of the deaths were unintentional (nearly 81 percent). The majority of deaths were among non-Hispanic white males but over time non-Hispanic black children accounted for a larger proportion of the deaths. The highest annual death rates during the 18 years examined in the study were among teens 15 to 19, with heroin implicated in nearly 1,900 deaths. The study relied on data from death certificates so the potential for misclassification of cause and manner of death exists. Researchers urge lawmakers, public health officials, clinicians and parents to implement protective measures to address the growing public health problem.
Authors: Julie R. Gaither, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, and coauthors
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