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The Opioid Epidemic: Hospital Visits and Teen Use Increase

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed this week that hospitalization for opioid abuse has doubled in the past decade, according to an investigation by the federal organization.

This conclusion amounted to 1.27 million opioid-related emergency or inpatient hospital visits in one year.

Although the research does not report upon how many hospitalized individuals were treated for overdoses specifically, it is apparent from national overdose and overdose death data that the American healthcare system is facing a growing epidemic.

Published on Tuesday, a similar CBS News article focused on the effects of opioids upon young people under the age of 25.

While the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s data revealed that individuals from 25-44 experienced the largest increases in opioid-related hospital visits, the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics found that the number of individuals abusing opioids under the age of 25 has increased more than six times over from 2001 to 2014.

CBS quoted Johns Hopkins addiction researcher Brendan Saloner, stating that, “Young people may be dying because they are not getting the treatment they need.”

Research from the JAMA study showed that only 1 in 4 affected teens would receive the proper addiction treatment.

Young Adults and the Opioid Crisis

Young adults have suffered from the brutal effects of the opioid crisis in recent history. Through examining data such as the JAMA study, it is apparent that teen treatment is more necessary now than ever before.

With many children finding access to opioids through their own relatives’ medicine cabinets, education is of the utmost importance.

According to research from the journal Pediatrics, adolescents across the nation are abusing powerful pain medication, with eight percent of those studied admitting to drug abuse.

As adolescents form habits that have the capability to become dangerous—and even life-threatening—treatment centers are working to give individuals the help that they need.

Interviewed by the Boston Globe, addiction medicine physician Sarah Bagley stated that, “Addiction is a pediatric illness, and it’s important to intervene early. Recovery is hard work. It’s an enormous task to ask a kid with developing adolescent brain to stop hanging around with a group of friends and [to] change their behavior.”

Experts agree that the developing adolescent brain is at risk for harm when exposed to drugs at an early age. Teens are often unaware of consequences that may result from continued drug use or experimentation. For this reason, early intervention is crucial.

In Palm Beach County, Florida, programs like Living Skills in the Schools aim to educate school-age children about drug and alcohol abuse. Programs begin as early as kindergarten—further proving that there is no time to soon to begin talking to children about the risks associated with drug use.

All age groups are vulnerable to the dangers of addiction—whether personally or through exposure to a family member or friend. Advocating for those who are suffering and providing proper treatment to all—from adolescents to retirees—is the first step in overcoming a disease that has touched the lives of so many.

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