University of California, Los Angeles: Drug overdose deaths among adolescents rose exponentially during COVID pandemic

The rate of overdose deaths among U.S. teenagers nearly doubled in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rose another 20% in the first half of 2021 compared with the 10 years before the pandemic, according to new UCLA research.

The trend occurred even as overall drug use remained generally stable.

It was the greatest increase in the drug death rate among teens in recorded history, said lead author Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Friedman, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate, said the increase is due to drugs becoming more dangerous, rather than to drug use becoming more common.

“The increases are almost entirely due to illicit fentanyls, which are increasingly found in counterfeit pills,” he said. “These counterfeit pills are spreading across the nation, and teens may not realize they are dangerous.”

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