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Children Dying from Fentanyl Poisoning

National

Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, right, and Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram walk through the exhibition of "The Faces of Fentanyl" wall at DEA headquarters. | Image by Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

(The Center Square) – Children under age 14 are dying from fentanyl poisoning at a faster rate than any other age group in the U.S., according to a new analysis from Families Against Fentanyl.

In the past two years, synthetic opioid (fentanyl) deaths among children surged.

Fentanyl-related deaths among infants (children under age one) quadrupled from 2019 to 2021; more than tripled among children between the ages of 1 and 4 and nearly quadrupled among children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Since 2015, fentanyl-related deaths among infants increased nearly 10-fold; among children ages 1 to 14, deaths increased 15-fold, an increase of over 1,400%, FAF said.

Nationally, fentanyl deaths also doubled over the same time period.

The majority of deaths were poisonings, meaning they resulted from fentanyl being ingested without the person’s knowledge. In 2021, less than 1% of fentanyl-related fatalities were suicides.

FAF reported its findings in a newly published brief, “The Changing Faces of Fentanyl Deaths,” which evaluated Center for Disease Control data on fentanyl poisoning fatalities.

“These disturbing new findings should serve as a wake-up call to our nation’s leaders,’” Jim Rauh, founder of Families Against Fentanyl, said. He again called on President Joe Biden to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction “and immediately establish a White House task force dedicated to the fentanyl crisis.”

“Americans deserve to know what is being done to save lives, and what is being done to uncover and stop the international manufacturers and traffickers of illicit fentanyl,” Rauh added. “This is the number one killer of our nation’s young adults. It is killing more and more children each year. It’s time to treat this threat with the urgency it deserves.”

It announced its findings after the DEA issued several public safety alerts last year about fentanyl and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody warned of Mexican cartels targeting young Americans with rainbow fentanyl pills, fake prescription pills that look like candy but are laced with fentanyl.

The DEA last month announced that in 2022, it seized enough fentanyl to kill more than everyone in the U.S. Texas law enforcement officers, as of Jan. 13 and since March 2021, have seized over 356 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than everyone in the United States. Last year, in a few months’ time, Florida law enforcement officers seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Florida.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, the size of a mosquito, is lethal enough to kill a grown adult and is 100 times more potent than morphine.

In early January, Moody called on Biden to demand that Mexico take action to prevent fentanyl from pouring across the border. She said she was “deeply concerned” because in his meetings with the Mexican president they didn’t appear “to discuss the deluge of illicit fentanyl flooding across our border from Mexico or the record number of Americans dying because of your failure to take action and stop the unmitigated flow of this deadly poison.”

Biden has also “failed to demand accountability and cooperation during previous meetings with both Obrador and Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Moody said.

Both countries have been identified by U.S. federal and state law enforcement agencies for creating the illicit fentanyl crisis. Chinese mafia and gangs ship fentanyl precursors to Mexican ports, where cartels and their operatives manufacture fake prescription pills and lace other drugs with fentanyl, fueling the fentanyl crisis, the DEA and other agencies say.

Traffickers then bring deadly drugs across the border using migrant warfare as a way to distract and avoid law enforcement, experts say.

The DEA has published several public safety alerts about the dangers of fentanyl. Florida has also published resources through its Dose of Reality, One Pill Can Kill website. Its Fast Facts on Fentanyl toolkit includes a DEA Emoji Drug Code to educate parents about how dealers are selling illicit drugs targeting minors through social media apps.

FAF points out that synthetic opioid (fentanyl) poisoning remains the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18 and 45.

Americans are encouraged to have Naloxone on hand, a drug that’s proven to reverse opioid overdoses and fentanyl poisoning if administered quickly enough. It’s available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s accessible for free and low cost online, through a range of community organizations, and through pharmacies with and without a prescription and with or without insurance.

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