From 2010 to 2021, the number of teen overdose deaths in the United States more than doubled, from 518 to 1,146 a year, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
With teen drug use currently at an all-time low, researchers say the amount of fentanyl sold to them in the form of counterfeit generic drugs — and their lack of awareness of the risks they face when taking those pills — is a big problem . That’s part of the problem, Friedman said.
Young people are buying pills they think are legal, but in reality “the pills are suppressed with drugs produced in the underground market, and they are forced to look real,” said Sheila Waharia, deputy director of research and education. Sheila Vakharia) said. Commitment to the Drug Policy Coalition.
Vakharia was not involved in the study.
Changing our school and family conversations
The bad news, she added, is that major changes are needed to reduce overdose deaths.
These are not prescription drugs used by older generations (teens sometimes get them out of the medicine cabinet). Fentanyl is now being used to make counterfeit medicines, packaged to look like legitimate drugs, and sold on the street to teenagers unaware of the risks they pose, Godwin said.
“We need to update their understanding so they know that these pills are actually becoming the most dangerous thing ever,” Friedman said.
Because the amount of fentanyl in different pills varies, experimenters and people who regularly take the pills often don’t know what they’re getting and are at risk, Friedman said.
To deal with rising death tolls, Friedman, Godwin and Waharia say schools and families need to focus on educating teens about the real risks of drugs, what to do with overdose, how to useto treat overdose of naloxone, and how to use the test drug for the presence of fentanyl.
Risk reduction does not allow
Some teen families may be concerned that honest conversations about safe practices to reduce overdose deaths might open the door for their children to start using them, but Godwin says the opposite is true.
“This fear of spreading misinformation about drugs sends teens to the grave,” Godwin said. “It is so important for (parents) to be reliable messengers for their own children or their children’s peers. »
“Reducing the risk doesn’t allow them to do that,” she added.
Teens who will experiment with drug and alcohol use and those who do not benefit from an honest and nuanced understanding of the risks they pose.
If parents say people who try ecstasy usually die instantly and their kids go to a party where dozens of other teens are on drugs and go to school on Monday, they may lose confidence in the information they get from trusted authorities about their lives , Godwin said.
Instead, they often seek information from their peers, the internet and popular media — often leading to dangerous misinformation, she adds.
Conversations that teach which drugs are risky, which are very dangerous, and how to handle them safely benefit teens in many ways. They enable teens to make better-informed decisions and let children know that their families are there when they get part of their problems and need help, Vakharia said.
“When you give people better choices, they make better choices,” Godwin said.