Drug use and Fentanyl Overdose Among Teenagers in the United States

This brief explores the concerning rise in fentanyl use among teenagers in the United States, underlining its harmful health consequences, including escalating overdose rates. It examines factors contributing to fentanyl's prevalence, such as its affordability, availability, and deadly combinations with other drugs.

Published by


April 4, 2023

Inquiry-driven, this project may reflect personal views, aiming to enrich problem-related discourse.

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Drug use among teenagers in the United States has become a detrimental problem over the past few decades. Despite efforts to prevent drug abuse, many teenagers still experiment with drugs, as a result, it leads to addiction, health problems, and even death.

One of the most dangerous drugs that teenagers are using today is fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is responsible for a growing number of overdoses.Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is much more overwhelming. It is typically used to treat severe pain, such as that caused by cancer, but has also been used illegally as a recreational drug.

Because of its potency, fentanyl can be lethal even in small amounts. Unfortunately, many teenagers are unaware of the dangers of fentanyl and are using it as a cheap and easy way to get high.

The number of fentanyl-related overdoses among teenagers has been increasing in recent years. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl among teenagers aged 15-19 increased by 84.2% from 2014 to 2015. In 2015, there were 95 fentanyl-related overdose deaths among teenagers in the United States.

The increased use of fentanyl use among teenagers is complex. One factor is the availability of the drug. Fentanyl is relatively easy to obtain, either through illicit drug markets or from prescription medication that is obtained illegally. Another factor is the low cost of the drug compared to other opioids, such as heroin. Therefore, other drugs are mixed with fentanyl that can lead to accidental overdoses because of the cheap price, yet deathly consequences.

Another factor is the way that fentanyl is being mixed with other drugs. Many of the fentanyl-related overdoses among teenagers are not caused by fentanyl alone but by a combination of drugs, including other opioids and stimulants. This can make the effects of the drug more unpredictable and increase the risk of overdose. Preventing fentanyl overdoses among teenagers requires a non-punitive approach.

One key component is education. Teenagers need to be educated about the dangers of fentanyl and other drugs, including the risks of overdose. Young adults need to understand the potential consequences of drug use and the importance of seeking help if they or someone they know is struggling with addiction.Another key component is increased access to treatment for addiction.

Many teenagers who become addicted to drugs, including fentanyl, are not able to access the treatment they need. This can be due to a lack of resources, stigma surrounding addiction, or a lack of awareness about available treatment options. Increasing access to evidence-based treatment programs can help teenagers overcome addiction and reduce the risk of overdose.

Drug use and fentanyl overdose among teenagers in the United States is a growing problem that requires attention from policymakers, healthcare providers, and the public. Preventing fentanyl overdoses among teenagers requires a non-punitive approach that includes education, increased access to treatment, and efforts to reduce the availability of the drug.

By working together, we can help protect the health and well-being of our nation's youth.


Linda An

2023 Cohort A Fellow

Linda has work history with startups such as innovate Social, as well as experience with project management, media/content creation, partner outreach, and event facilitation. Linda serves on the Youth Advisory Council as a marketer and Youth Transformative Justice to stimulate change to advise on issues of public policy.

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