Suspected Nonfatal Drug-Related Overdoses Among Youth in the US: 2016–2019
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Suspected Nonfatal Drug-Related Overdoses Among Youth in the US: 2016–2019

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    During the current drug overdose crisis, the United States is experiencing a significant number of overdose deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits. Given the vulnerability of young persons to substance use, it is important to assess how this crisis affects the nation’s youth. In this study, we investigate trends in suspected nonfatal drug-related overdoses (all-drugs, opioids, heroin, and stimulants) among youth using syndromic surveillance data from 2016 to 2019.


    A retrospective analysis of emergency department syndromic surveillance data were used to detect quarterly trends in suspected drug overdoses from April 2016 through September 2019 among youth aged 0 to 10, 11 to 14, and 15 to 24 years. Syndrome definitions were developed using chief complaint free-text and discharge diagnosis codes to identify overdoses involving all-drugs, opioids, heroin, and stimulants. Pearson χ2 tests detected quarter-to-quarter changes, and joinpoint regression analysis assessed trends over time.


    On average, there was a 2.0% increase for youth aged 0 to 10 years and a 2.3% increase for youth aged 11 to 14 years for suspected all-drug overdoses. Suspected heroin overdoses decreased by an average of 3.3% per quarter for youth aged 15 to 24 years. Among all age groups, suspected stimulant overdoses increased across the study period, 3.3% for 0 to 10-year-olds, 4.0% for 11- to 14-year-olds, and 2.3% for 15- to 24-year-olds.


    Suspected stimulant-involved drug overdoses appear to be rising among youth. These findings could inform targeted interventions, such as stimulant-focused prevention, and comprehensive approaches, including school-based prevention and other strategies to lower morbidity and mortality.

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