Overdose rates on the raise, especially among adolescents.
The use of the drug fentanyl is growing quickly across the nation. However, one group that this is especially true for is teenagers, who are now the fastest growing group to overdose from the addictive opioid drug.
What exactly is fentanyl? According to the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid so strong that it’s considered to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. While it was originally used solely for cancer patients that needed to manage chronic pain, it is now frequently sold illegally street drugs. It can also be added to drugs such as heroin to make them more potent or be sold to the addict under the guise of heroin. Fentanyl is relatively cheap, so many illicit dealers prefer to use it to “cut’ heroin and other drugs in order to save money. These dealers aren’t concerned with the health and well-being of those they’re selling to, leading to an overwhelming number of overdoses in recent years.
A drug user usually doesn’t realize they are purchasing fentanyl or something with fentanyl in it. This has led many teenagers to die from the drugs they’ve purchase. Fentanyl is most commonly produced in Mexico and in China, then smuggled across the borders into the U.S. to be distributed.
Even if they never overdose, teenagers addicted to drugs are particularly vulnerable because they can have adverse effects on their development. The adolescent brain grows until the mid-20s, and if a teen is using a powerful drug such as fentanyl, it could have dangerous and potentially lifelong side effects. Teens who abuse fentanyl are also more at risk of such behaviors like driving drunk, getting into fights, engaging in risky sexual acts, carrying weapons, or attempting suicide.
Teens may be the most at risk because they are especially likely to engage in drug use or at least experiment with it in some manner. Parents are encouraged to talk to their adolescents early on, and to maintain and open and honest line of communication when it comes to the potential for drug use. It doesn’t always make a difference, but it can help in many situations.
While controversial, many experts want to focus more on teaching teens about overdose prevention rather than trying to scare them away from drugs altogether. By providing Narcan and fentanyl strips, people can test the drug they want to consume before taking it. This will inform the person whether this deadly ingredient is included before they make the decision to move forward.
Adolescents ages 15, 16, 17 are the only ones who are susceptible to falling to drug use. Even preteens aged 12 have been known to begin using drugs and this includes opiates. They are just as likely to die from a fentanyl overdose as an older teenager or young adult.
It is an epidemic that shows no sign of stopping. In fact, the opioid crisis is growing again due to increased socializing as the pandemic dies down. Whether it be total use prevention or overdose prevention, something needs to be done to slow the rise of fentanyl use among teens and other groups.