Once reserved for grown ups, the effects of opiate abuse have now trickled down to teens and children. Yes, the most vulnerable group of our population have started to suffer the pain of our culture’s opiate epidemic. The rate of opiate overdose among teens and children has tripled over the last three years, with OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin being the usual culprits.
In fact, in looking at opiate abuse statistics, researcher Julie Gaither has said that some very young children are “eating them like candy,” as they scoop up their parents’ painkillers and swallow them by the mouthful. For children under 10 at least, these are accidents caused by simple carelessness and a lock of oversight. Gaither advises parents to restrict access to painkillers and to throw away left over pills.
When we look at opiate overdoses among older children however, the problem becomes more complex. It’s more complex because an alarming number of these overdoses are not accidental, even among children in the 10 to 14 age group. It’s a horrifying truth, but many of these incidents are the results of suicide attempts or intentional self harm. In this age group, such incidents have increased 37 percent in the last 15 years.
And the numbers become just plain ghastly when it comes to teenagers. For teens aged 15 to 19 years, opiate overdoses resulting from suicide or self harm attempts increased 140 percent since 1997. But not all of these incidents involve prescription drugs. In a shameful microcosm of the wider addiction world, More and more teens are overdosing on heroin.
So what on earth is going on here? How is it that so many innocents are taking painkillers and heroin? The short version is that children and teens are suffering from a sort of trickle down effect from our culture’s mental health problem. Whether it’s an 8 year old drinking Mommy’s methadone, or a depressed high school student trying to escape, these young people are the victims of our systemic denial. It’s time we got honest about our collective addiction to opiates. Only then can we discover and develop more treatment options.
And in some ways, the use of opiates is only a symptom of a bigger problem. This problem is of course our collective state of mental health. We live in what can feel like a fragmented and isolating world. It’s inevitable that under such conditions so many millions of people, adults and children alike, suffer from conditions like anxiety and depression.
So a two pronged approach is probably best, if we want to bring these skyrocketing numbers back to earth. We must address mental health issues and opiate abuse both clinically, as the very real and pervasive maladies they are. For opiate abuse help, contact Recreate Life Counseling today.