In the battle against rising opioid deaths, one vulnerable group has been overlooked

From the Toronto Star

As the opioid toxicity crisis has intensified, our image of typical drug users has received a makeover. No longer is the picture one of emaciated, strung-out souls wandering back alleys; it now includes suburbanites, upwardly mobile people with good jobs and nice homes.

But there’s still something missing from this picture: The kids. While teenagers and young adults might not fit the classic picture of drug addiction, the toxicity crisis hasn’t ignored them. But we sure have.

According to a new study led by epidemiologist Tara Gomes of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, deaths from opioid toxicity among Ontarians between 15 and 24 rose dramatically in the last decade. Between 2014 and 2021, overdose deaths tripled, while visits to emergency departments quadrupled.

No age group is safe

Fentanyl contributed to 94 per cent of the deaths, which shows that no age group is safe from opioid toxicity. But that’s not the most disturbing part.

This is: As deaths and hospitalizations skyrocketed, treatment uptake decreased dramatically. The rate of young adults receiving opioid agonist treatment — methadone or buprenorphine, commonly abbreviated as OAT — dropped by more than half between 2014 and 2021, while admissions to residential treatment centres declined by 72.5 per cent.

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