The deadly fentanyl kills the equivalent of an entire class of children every week, according to staggering figures.
Fentanyl, a very potent synthetic opioid that is 100 times stronger than morphine, is ravaging America’s youth.
A recent study found that fentanyl was responsible for the deaths of 1,557 children in 2021, the equivalent of 30 children every week.
Just two milligrams of fentanyl — imagine 10 to 15 grains of table salt — can prove deadly, and it’s increasingly contaminating the illicit drug supply in the United States because it’s cheap, potent, and prompting many users to ask for more.
In 1999, approximately 5% of the 175 opioid deaths were due to fentanyl. In 2021, 1,557 (94%) of 1,657 opioid-related deaths were attributed to fentanyl
Fentanyl deaths in the United States increased in the 2010s. At the start of the decade, 2,666 Americans died from fentanyl overdoses. This figure jumped to 19,413 in 2016. Covid made the situation worse, with a record 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021
Drug overdoses are now the third leading cause of child death each year, behind gun violence and car accidents.
The national drug overdose crisis has hit everyone hard, with a record 107,622 Americans dying of drug overdoses last year. More than 70% of deaths were caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
Overdose deaths from fentanyl far exceed those caused by other drugs, including benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and prescription drugs.
A report published in JAMA Last year, fatal overdoses caused by benzodiazepines increased by about 7% between 2010 and 2021, while deaths caused by cocaine, prescription opioids and heroin decreased.
Dr. Julie Gaither, a pediatrician at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, wrote in JAMA Pediatrics“Reflecting trends seen in adults, pediatric fentanyl deaths began to increase dramatically in 2013, leading to a more than 30-fold increase in mortality between 2013 and 2021.
“A surge that began in 2018 has resulted in an almost 3-fold increase in deaths among older adolescents and an almost 6-fold increase in children under five.”
In total, there have been 13,861 opioid-related deaths among young people under the age of 20, of which 5,194 – nearly 38% – involved fentanyl.
The vast majority of these deaths, nearly 90%, occurred in adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, while 2% occurred in infants under the age of one and 4.6% in toddlers. one to four years.
It was revealed last month that a 19-month-old baby girl died of fentanyl poisoning in 2021 while she and her parents were staying at an Airbnb property in Florida.
It’s unclear how the infant gained access to the fentanyl, but the parents have alleged in a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that the property was a known party house despite being advertised as a ‘peaceful place to stay’ .
Fentanyl has devastated American cities of all sizes. A recent government report shows fatal overdoses involving the synthetic opioid more than tripled between 2016 and 2021, from 5.7 per 100,000 in 2016 to 21.6 in 2021.
San Francisco, the West Coast epicenter of the fentanyl crisis, saw a staggering 41% increase in drug-related deaths in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same time last year.
Data from the city’s medical examiner shows that 200 people died from overdoses between January and March, up from 142 deaths in 2022. That equates to one overdose death every 10 hours.
San Francisco saw a staggering 41% increase in drug-related deaths in the first quarter of 2023
People openly smoke drugs on the sidewalk in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent months
Pediatricians urge parents to keep their children as far away from drugs as possible, especially fentanyl, and to speak honestly and candidly with their children about the threat posed by opioids.
Dr. Scott Hadland, an addiction specialist at Mass General for Children Hospital in Boston, suggested caregivers ask teens what they know about fentanyl, ask if their peers use drugs or if someone they have had an overdose, and if they know how to react to a fentanyl overdose.
“Don’t try to scare teenagers. Play to their strengths. Give them the knowledge and power to stay safe,” he said. said.
Dr. Hadland and countless other doctors have called on the public to make sure naloxone is a standard component of their home first aid kits.
The Food and Drug Administration, the primary federal drug regulator, has taken steps to make reversal medication, specifically the nasal spray formulation marketed as Narcan, available without a prescription or even having to go to a a pharmacy.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it works by binding to opioid receptors to rapidly reverse the effects of opioids, symptoms of which may include slow heart rate, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, slow or shallow breathing, gurgling, blue lips or fingernails and vomiting.
The antidote can reverse an overdose in minutes, but only lasts about 90 minutes at most, which means it is possible for a person to overdose even after the naloxone has worn off.
Some opioids may also require more than one dose of naloxone to counteract the effects.
Narcan is already available without a prescription in all 50 states, where state leaders have issued standing orders for pharmacists to sell the drug to anyone who requests it.
But not all pharmacies carry it, and those that do have to keep it behind the counter. And even without the need for a doctor’s prescription, many people are reluctant to go to a pharmacist for medication, fearing the stigma of drug abuse.
Dr Hadland said: “Most teenagers who overdose die at home when someone else is around and could respond. But most teenagers who die never catch Narcan and have no pulse by the time EMS arrives.
The FDA accolade paves the way for the antidote to be more accessible than ever at gas stations at vending machines.