Unintentional drug overdoses led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2014 and 2019, study shows

Roughly 100 bags of fentanyl were found in the bedroom of a 13-year-old boy who died from presumed fentanyl exposure at his school
The study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, may be one of the first to calculate lives lost to unintentional drug overdoses among young people.

Researchers looked at overdose data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2014 and 2019 to calculate the total number of years of life lost for 10- to 19-year-olds who died during that time. If the data is expanded to include people up to 24 years of age, unintentional drug overdoses resulted in the loss of 1.25 million years of life.

The number of young people dying from an unintentional overdose has steadily increased in recent years, as it has for the general population, according to data from the National Institutes of Health. Earlier studies have shown that mental health issues, unstable housing and other factors may be to blame for many of these unintentional drug overdoses.

“This is just completely unacceptable from a public health standpoint, because every one of these deaths is preventable,” said study co-author Dr. Orman T. Hall, a psychiatry specialist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Hall believes the research also shows that public health interventions that are aimed at adults probably do not work as well for all ages.

“A lot of our public health interventions are geared towards adults. And we know that the types of messaging and, really, the points of contact for adolescents and young people are different from adults,” Hall said.

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