The Opioid Epidemic Needs A Strategy For Teens

Shortly after President Trump declared the opioid overdose crisis a national emergency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from 2014 to 2015 the drug overdose rate increased 19 percent for teens -- more than doubling the rate since 1999. The most common culprit: heroin.

This statistic highlights a simple but often overlooked fact: Addiction is frequently a childhood onset condition.

As pediatricians who treat addiction, we can attest to the toll of this crisis on young people. We recently cared for a 16-year-old boy who sat in our exam room reading a Harry Potter novel -- an alarming contrast to his addiction to opioid painkillers first prescribed after appendix surgery. We treated a 17-year-old girl on the inpatient ward for complications from injecting opioids who coped by surrounding her hospital bed with stuffed animals.

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