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HOUSTON – The number of teens and adolescents dying from drug overdoses has increased dramatically over the past two years.
Ranee Crest’s daughter Lydia was an unfortunate victim.
“She was beautiful, vibrant, passionate, incredible,” Crest said.
Crest said her daughter turned up dead in her bedroom in July 2020. The cause of death was an accidental overdose.
Crest said her daughter struggled with addiction but had been sober and in recovery for over a year.
“We were in the pandemic, and isolation, I think, had a big factor,” she said.
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According to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, deadly overdoses among adolescents nearly doubled from 492 in 2019 to 954 in 2020. They jumped another 20% in 2021.
George Youngblood, who has worked with Teen and Family Services in Houston, said the COVID-19 pandemic affected hundreds of children across the country in the same way that it did Lydia.
“The more we isolated our kids without being able to do all the social-emotional learning that they needed to do, I think that the mental health crisis became so acute. They experienced anxiety and depression,” Youngblood said.
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Youngblood said the number of children in Teen and Family Services’ outreach program alone doubled after the pandemic started.
“For the fall semester, just in one of our school districts, we saw almost 600 kids in crisis, which was an increase from pre-pandemic numbers in that school of 350,” Youngblood said.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that drugs are becoming deadlier.
“There has been a huge rise in illicitly manufactured prescription pills that contain fentanyl, at least 30% of which have doses that can kill someone,” the institute’s director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, said. “We believe this may be one of the factors that’s putting teenagers at a higher risk for overdose mortality.”
This has left mothers like Crest with one question: “So, what are we doing now?”
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Last year, the El Paso sector of Customs and Border Protection alone seized more than six times the amount of fentanyl it did in 2018.
Last week, President Biden released the first National Drug Control Strategy focused on untreated addiction and drug trafficking. Federal officials said about two-thirds of drug overdoses over the last year were related to fentanyl.