NEW YORK (NewsNation) — Children younger than 14 are dying of fentanyl poisoning at a rate faster than any other age group, according to a new report from Families Against Fentanyl, a nonprofit spreading awareness about the deadly opioid.
Between 2019 and 2021, synthetic opioid fatalities led by fentanyl poisonings among U.S. children younger than 14 increased faster than among any other U.S. age group, according to the group’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Infant fentanyl deaths increased twice as fast between 2019 and 2021. Fentanyl deaths among toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 more than tripled, and deaths among children between the ages of 5 and 14 nearly quadrupled, according to the group.
In many cases, the drug is ingested without the person’s knowledge. People are taking pills — such as at parties — not knowing the pills are counterfeit and heavily laced with fentanyl.
People making the illegal version of the synthetic drug can make it look like anything, including candy, and fentanyl is easily mixed with drugs like cocaine and heroin.
The CDC has endorsed the use of fentanyl test strips, a product originally created to test for fentanyl in urine, after a person has already digested the drug, The Wall Street Journal reported. There is a push to decriminalize them in some states. The test strips are considered drug paraphernalia in some states, counties and cities, which makes them illegal.
“Even with those fentanyl test strips that may tell you that there’s fentanyl in a product but it won’t necessarily tell you how much, so it’s people playing Russian roulette with their lives when they take these illegal products,” said Dr. Wilson Compton with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it isn’t actively regulating test strips that check illicit drugs for fentanyl, which has put the onus on buyers to sift through the market. Test strip suppliers must manage a confusing regulatory regime, and the increased demand for test strips has created more competition in the test-strip marketplace.
Two milligrams of fentanyl, which is the size of a mosquito, is enough to kill an adult. The CDC said more than 100,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2021 and that more than 65,000 of those deaths were linked to fentanyl.
Americans 25 to 44 accounted for 53.2% of the total number of fentanyl deaths in the U.S. in 2021.
Fentanyl poisoning was still the leading cause of death among Americans 18 to 45 in 2021. Americans ages 35 to 44 are more likely to die from fentanyl poisoning than any other 10-year age group.
Drug rehabilitation counselors urge parents to talk to their children about drug use, the dangers and potentially deadly consequences.