Drug overdose deaths among teens climb, with many turning to pain killers

Many teens in Texas overdosing on methamphetamines, experts say

Drug overdose deaths nationwide and in Texas jump, according to CDC. Methamphetamines is the drug most Texas teens are using.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A disturbing trend among teenagers nationwide is also playing out in Texas  The number of drug overdose deaths continue to climb.

Colleen Carlin, 17, got high for the first time at 13 on a bag of marijuana.

“I took $50 from my mom one night and I went over to a good friend of mine house and I said, ‘here’s 50 bucks. I don’t know what to do, but let’s get some weed,” Colleen said.

That decision started years of drug abuse that eventually lead to rehab in Houston. Now Carlin attends University High School, a school for sober students in Austin.

“A lot of the drugs that are going around now is a lot of fake drugs,” she said. “It’s a lot of synthetic drugs. And that will kill you. It will.”

Carlin’s caveat echoes a report released this week by the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control. The center discovered that between 2014 and 2015, fatal overdoses among 15 and 19-year-old teens nationwide jumped 19 percent.

Most teens are turning to a combination of prescription pain killers and street drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Texas mirrors the national numbers with a 20 percent increase in the same time frame. The deadliest drugs statewide are methamphetamines.

The study also found that most of the deaths among teens were unintentional.

“Many of the students at this school have already lost several friends,” said Julie McElrath, who runs University High School.

McElrath says the first step to cut down on fatal overdoses among teens begins with removing the stigma.

“First we bring addiction out of the darkness and into the light. We talk more about what it is. A disease,” McElrath said. “It is no different than diabetes or heart disease.”

McElrath also said another way to stem fatal overdoses among teens is adding more funding to drug programs across the country and here in Texas. Right now, many drug recovery programs receive money under the umbrella of mental health programs. McElrath believes they should have separate funding.

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