Teen Drug Overdose Deaths on the Rise


The CDC has reported an increase in drug overdose deaths from 2019 to 2022 in adolescents aged 10 to 19 years.

Drug overdose deaths in youths aged 10 to 19 years increased 109% from July to December 2019, to July to December 2021, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An estimated 108,000 deaths from drug overdose occurred in 2021, with drug overdose deaths among individuals aged 14 to 18 years increasing 94% from 2019 to 2020 and 20% from 2020 to 2021. These results occurred despite a decrease in illegal drug use among middle and high school students during this time.

Availability of illegal drugs such as illicitly manufactured fentanyls (IMFs) and counterfeit pills has increased, and social media has made purchasing pills easier. These factors have increased the risk of overdose in adolescents, with IMF deaths increasing 182% from 2019 to 2021.

About 90% of overdose deaths involved opioids, while about 84% involved IMFs. In about 25% of overdose deaths, there was evidence of counterfeit pills, and about 41% of cases included evidence of mental health conditions.

Data was collected on overdose deaths in funded jurisdictions. In 47 jurisdictions, there were 2,231 adolescent overdose deaths from July 2019 to December 2021, 69% of which were male and about 60% were non-Hispanic White individuals. At least 1 opioid was involved in 91.3% of deaths, IMFs in 83.9%, and IMFs with no other stimulants in 58.9%.

Among 43 jurisdictions, 60.4% of overdose deaths occurred at home, and potential bystanders were present in about 67% of deaths. Lack of bystander response was because of spacial distance in 67.8% of cases and lack of awareness that drug use was occurring in 22.4%. Mental health treatment was recorded in 23.8% of cases, diagnosed depression in 19.1%, and suicidal or self-harm behaviors in 14.8%.

To reduce drug overdose deaths, the CDC encouraged collaboration among public health officials to implement efforts that reduce the availability of illicit drugs and create accessible treatment for mental health and substance use.

This article originally appeared on Contemporary Pediatrics.


1. Tanz LJ, Dinwiddie AT, Mattson CL, O’Donnell J, Davis NL. Drug overdose deaths among persons aged 10–19 Years — United States, July 2019–December 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1576–1582. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7150a2

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