CDC study: Teen drug overdose deaths on the rise

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control warns more adolescents are dying from drug overdoses.

According to the CDC, the death rate due to drug overdose for those 15-19 years old was 3.7 for every 100,000 in 2015; up from 3.1 in 2014 and a reversal from the 26 percent decline the agency saw from 2007-2014.

Overall, the number of teens dying from overdose is more than double what it was in 1999.

"I was not surprised at all (when I read the numbers)," said Sarah Makin, Administration Director for Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge in Virginia Beach, a faith-based non-profit that treats teens struggling with addiction. "When you walk around the community and you see these kids...They want to be a part of something, but they don't really have a lot to be a part of, it's difficult for them."

The CDC says the majority of deaths in 2015 were unintentional and caused by heroin and other opioids. The increase in opioid-related deaths was significant.

Makin says more teens in treatment at the Teen Challenge facility in Newport News are struggling with a heroin addiction and many don't realize they're addicted.

"I would say 65-75 percent of them are the major drugs...like the opioids because they don't realize how deadly they are," said Makin. "They get [heroin] from other kids. They have this whole network of people that they work with and it's like a business."

The teens in treatment also come from different walks of life.

Makin says there are some signs parents can watch out for if they're concerned their child could be using drugs:

  • They pull away from the family
  • They don't want you on their cell phone
  • They keep their social media accounts hidden

If parents are concerned, Makin says they could try to reach their children through another family member or reach out to Teen Challenge if they have questions.

"Don't be ashamed. Reach out and get help," said Makin.

In total, the CDC says 772 adolescents ages 15-19 died from drug overdoses in 2015.