Kids under 14 are dying of fentanyl poisoning faster than any other age group: analysis

Children younger than 14 are dying of fentanyl poisoning at a faster rate than any other age group, according to a new analysis from Families Against Fentanyl (FAF), a nonprofit spreading awareness about the deadly opioid.

Fentanyl poisoning occurs when people in contact with or accidentally ingest the synthetic opioid, which is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and their bodies shut down as a result — a trend that has been increasing across the United States over the past several years, according to FAF founder, Jim Rauh.

“It’s so prevalent in society now,” said Rauh, a chemical engineer by trade who lost his 37-year-old son Tom to fentanyl poisoning in 2015. “Distribution goes to dispersion by entropy. That’s the law of physics. And it’s showing out because of the mass quantity of this material. … It’s so prevalent that just our innocent children, by incidental contact, are being killed. And now it’s creeping into the schools and other in other enclosed environments.”

Between 2019 and 2021 — the latest year for which data on opioid deaths from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is available — synthetic opioid fatalities led by fentanyl poisonings among U.S. children under 14 years old increased faster than among any other U.S. age group, according to an FAF analysis of CDC data.

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Fentanyl poisoning occurs when people in contact with or accidentally ingests the synthetic opioid, which is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and their bodies shut down as a result.
(NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office)

In other words, the number of children under 14 years old dying of fentanyl poisoning is rising at a faster rate than other age demographics based on data from 2019 to 2021, suggesting that children are being more frequently exposed to and ingesting the deadly opioid on accident.

Infant fentanyl deaths increased twice as fast between 2019 and 2021. While fentanyl deaths across the United States doubled between 2019 and 2021, deaths among infants under the age of 1-year-old quadrupled.

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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 FAF.

Between 2019 and 2021, synthetic opioid fatalities led by fentanyl poisonings among U.S. children under 14 years old rose increased faster than among any other U.S. age group.
(Families Against Fentanyl )

Since 2015, fentanyl deaths have increased nearly 10-fold among infants and 15-fold — an increase of more than 1,400% — among children between the ages of 1 and 14.

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Fentanyl is deadly in small doses and is more frequently found in recreational drugs, though some illicit drug manufacturers and cartels have pressed fentanyl into pills made to look like prescription painkillers.

Since 2015, fentanyl deaths has increased nearly 10-fold among infants and 15-fold — an increase of more than 1,400% — among children between the ages of 1 and 14.
(Families Against Fentanyl )

The synthetic opioid can also become a danger to children when it is left out in homes or in public where they can reach and ingest it.

In one of many recent examples, a Connecticut 13-year-old died at The Sports and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford after being exposed to fentanyl. Drug-detection dogs reportedly found 40 bags of the opioid inside the school after the child ingested it, Fox 61 Hartford reported at the time.

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FAF noted in a press release that while suicides used to make up more than 25% of fentanyl deaths, suicides now make up less than 1% of fentanyl deaths.

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, June 6, 2017.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

On Monday, an Ohio courtroom heard evidence in Rauh’s 2020 lawsuit filed in Summit County accusing Zheng, a Chinese drug manufacturer and distributor, of shipping drugs to his son containing fentanyl that his family believes ultimately killed him. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced indictments against Gordon Jin, 35, and his father Guanghua Zheng, 62, for the company’s crimes in 2018.

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“They traced the shipment directly from the Zheng drug trafficking organization in China to Tom and another victim here in Akron, [Ohio]. And they were able to trace that all the way back, indict the Zhengs, and Jeff Sessions was reading this indictment on the television in 2018, and I almost fainted,” Rauh recalled.

Families Against Fentanyl founder Jim Rauh, who lost his son to fentanyl poisoning, is pushing to designate the illicit drug as a weapon of mass destruction.
(Families Against Fentanyl)

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The FAF founder has since been pushing Congress to designate fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction as has received support from various attorneys general and lawmakers across the country.

Rauh also suggests parents and schools know how to use Narcan, a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in the event of an unexpected emergency.