National youth overdose deaths spike 94% between 2019 and 2020, says CDC
DELAWARE – Between 2019 and 2020, overdose deaths spiked 94% amongst American middle and high school students, according to the CDC. Between 2020 and 2021, those numbers jumped 20% nationally, according to that same report.
In The First State
The Delaware Department of Public Health (DPH) says the number of those deaths are not as high in the First State as others. However, DPH officials say the trend of an increase is reflected in Delaware.
“The biggest factor here is fentanyl. Fentanyl is the odorless, colorless opioid that is being added to pretty much all drugs nowadays. It started some years ago, but it has become very prominent in recent years,” said Kate Brookins, Director of the DPH Office of Health Crisis Response.
Brookins says fentanyl is the leading chemical found in overdose deaths. In Delaware, 80% of drug-related toxicology reports found traces of fentanyl in the victims’ systems, says Brookins. She says it’s a threat that is growing increasingly worrisome for Delaware’s youth.
“What has happened for this age group is that they are opioid naïve, meaning that they have never taken an opioid before in their life. When they do use drugs, any type of drugs, that may be mixed with fentanyl,” said Brookins. “They are overdosing and instantly dying, essentially, from first-time use of any drug. The main thing that is happening right now with that age group is that they are using illicitly manufactured pills.”
In years past, Brookins says youth were abusing drugs that came from over the counter. That trend is changing, too, she says. “Nowadays, that medication is laced with fentanyl. They are illicitly manufactured and being sold on the street as the real medication, when in fact, they are not,” said Brookins.
Battling The Crisis
As the opioid crisis continues in the First State, Brookins says DPH has been rapidly expanding its services to combat it. At the same time, health officials are urging parents and educators to use resources like HelpIsHereDE.com to talk to their children about misusing and abusing drugs.
“There is lots of information about the different drugs, the potency, the facts about fentanyl; where it is included, what it is, and what it is not. There are different fact sheets for various drugs. There are also various tools on how to talk to kids,” said Brookins.
Meanwhile, DPH says it is working with schools and community service providers to push for healthier alternatives than turning to drug use.
“We are trying to promote really healthy lifestyles and healthy ways of thinking and coping, preventing drug use in the first place, being able to say no,” said Brookins. “We understand how troubling this trend is, and we are working very hard on implementing prevention and intervention initiatives in our state to try and address this. We are doing better than many other states when it comes to the overdose epidemic, even though our numbers are fairly high.”