A new study found the death rate from drug overdoses among older U.S. teens has jumped 19 percent in one year and health officials are seeing a growing trend for opioid addiction in this age group.
“The opioid crisis is just that: a crisis,” said Barbara Insley Crouch, the executive director of the Utah Poison Control Center. “We have reached a crisis in the United States, but this has been an ongoing problem here in Utah. You know, we are working on ways to address it but absolutely it’s alarming.”
Crouch says Utah is seeing a growing trend in teens exploring the use of opioids which are highly addictive narcotic substances commonly prescribed to treat pain.
“Adolescents, in general, like to explore,” Crouch said. “Just like little kids always explore their environment, teens tend to explore different ways to get high. And they don't necessarily understand the risks associated with substances.”
A recent study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found that, from 2014 to 2015, U.S. teen overdose deaths, ages 15 to 19, had increased by 19 percent.
As teens are being exposed to opioids at younger ages, Crouch said this creates a long-term problem.
“The adolescent brain is still developing and so that can lead to sort of a lifelong problem,” Crouch said, “because of the fact that they’re starting this process before essentially all of the networks are fully developed in the brain.”
The Utah Department of Health said teens that have learned about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs from their parents or grandparents were 42 percent less likely to abuse prescription drugs than teens that did not talk to their guardians about this issue.