Adolescent Drug

Deadly Increase in Adolescent Drug Overdoses Driven by Fentanyl-Laced Prescription Pills


A recent study has revealed that there has been a significant increase in the number of drug overdose deaths among adolescents in the United States. On average, 22 adolescents aged 14 to 18 died each week in 2022 due to drug overdoses. This has led to a death rate of 5.2 per 100,000, making it the third leading cause of pediatric deaths, trailing behind firearm-related injuries and motor vehicle collisions.

The alarming rise in adolescent overdose deaths is not attributed to an increase in illicit drug use. In fact, the rate of illicit drug use among 12th graders has seen a decline over the years. The cause of the increase is the presence of fentanyl in counterfeit prescription pills, such as oxycodone and benzodiazepines, which are being consumed by adolescents.

Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid that is significantly more dangerous than other opioids. Its inclusion in counterfeit pills makes them indistinguishable from genuine prescription medications. Teenagers often have no way of knowing that they are consuming pills laced with a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl.

In response to this crisis, researchers emphasize the importance of educators, physicians, and mental health practitioners in informing and guiding adolescents about the dangers of drug use and counterfeit pills. Policymakers are urged to focus on counties with high overdose rates, particularly in western states, to implement targeted interventions.

The study identified several hotspot counties with high overdose death rates. Maricopa County in Arizona and Los Angeles County recorded the highest number of fatal overdoses during the study period. Additional hotspot counties include Orange County (California), Cook County (Illinois), and King County (Washington), among others.

American Indian and Alaska Native adolescents had overdose rates 1.82 times higher than their white counterparts. Furthermore, teenagers are more likely to consume prescription pills compared to powdered forms of drugs like heroin. The prevalence of fentanyl in pills has made it a leading cause of death among American teens.

It is crucial that teenagers are educated about the real risks associated with experimenting with pills and provided with strategies to ensure their own safety, as well as that of their peers. The collaboration between policymakers, clinicians, families, and communities is essential in addressing this escalating public health threat.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it