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Studies Suggest Cautious Optimism About Declines in Teen Opioid Use

In the midst of an opioid epidemic that continues to devastate families, a sliver of hope has arrived. Two long-term studies published Monday show that opioid use among teens and opioid poisonings among younger children are on the decline.

Though it gets less press, the opioid epidemic has been hitting teens and children hard, with hospitalization rates for opioid exposures nearly doubling for teens and more than doubling for kids under 5 between 1997 and 2012. But family members' opioids are a major source for youth who use them, and opioid prescriptions have been decreasing since around 2011, reducing youth access to the drugs, noted both studies' authors.

"It is our hope that these declines are due to careful prescribing practices and enhanced monitoring of prescription opioids among adolescents that will eventually translate to a reduction in negative opioid-related consequences, such as overdoses," says Sean Esteban McCabe, the lead author of one of the studies and a research professor at the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center.


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