(KRON) — The first study looking into how many children have died from fentanyl poisonings nationwide was released Monday with heartbreaking numbers.
In 2021, almost 70,000 Americans died from overdosing on fentanyl. Fentanyl poisoning deaths surged among children as well. “Fentanyl was responsible for the deaths of 40 infants, and 93 children aged 1 to 4 years (in 2021),” the new study by JAMA Pediatrics states. Between ages 0-19, 1,557 victims died that year.
“Little is known about the extent to which the fentanyl crisis has affected children since the opioid epidemic began nearly 25 years ago,” the study’s authors noted. Researchers looked for answers by compiling statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research’s database.
They identified opioid deaths between 1999 and 2021 for victims ranging between 0 and 19 years old.
Fentanyl was implicated in 5,194 of 13,861 (37.5%) fatal pediatric opioid poisonings between 1999 and 2021. “Most deaths were among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years (89.6%) and children aged 0 to 4 years (6.6%),” the study states.
“Mirroring trends seen among adults, pediatric deaths from fentanyl began to increase substantially in 2013, resulting in a more than 30-fold increase in mortality between 2013 and 2021,” researchers wrote.
For all pediatric ages, 43.8% of deaths occurred at home.
Two babies died in the San Francisco Bay Area last year from fentanyl overdoses at home.
In May of 2022, two young Santa Rosa parents, Evan Frostick, 26, and Madison Bernard, 23, were arrested after their 15-month-old daughter suddenly died at home. Police officers found fentanyl in several places within the primary bedroom, including a bed that the baby shared with her mother. Investigators determined that the baby, Charlotte Frostick, ingested fentanyl that her mother had been using.
The Sonoma County Coroner’s Office determined that “acute fentanyl intoxication” caused Charlotte’s death. Prosecutors filed murder charges against the parents.
In August of 2022, a 23-year-old Livermore man was arrested after his 23-month-old baby died at home from toxic levels of fentanyl in her blood. Pittman was the baby’s sole caretaker, and he admitted to police that he was a fentanyl addict, according to police.
To prevent pediatric deaths, the study concluded that improving access to naloxone in homes, as well as parental opioid use disorder treatment, could help.
Researchers wrote, “Findings from this study suggest that the pediatric opioid crisis is changing in ways that will make it harder to combat. Commonsense solutions (safe storage and disposal) are still needed to prevent pediatric exposures to opioids, but a greater emphasis on harm reduction strategies is necessary, including parental and adolescent treatment for opioid use disorder and improving access to naloxone in homes, which is where most pediatric deaths from fentanyl occur.”