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Adolescents at risk in drug overdose rise during COVID-19 pandemic

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

PHOENIX – Adolescents are at a higher risk for suffering from opioid-related drug overdoses as they deal with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Evidence in a report by ODMAP, an overdose detection program, showed that drug overdoses jumped by 42% in May 2020 compared to May 2019.

The report also noted that since the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the United States, there was an average increase in overdoses by 20% each month when compared to the same time period during the previous year.

Dr. Andrea Raby, Vice President of psychiatry for Bayless Integrated Healthcare in Phoenix, said the issue is an “epidemic hidden in a pandemic,” especially when it comes to adolescents.

“This is always a vulnerable time during this period in their growth, in their development and in their growth of their identity, and often times what helps our adolescent population is structure and predictability and of course with COVID, this renders everything the opposite,” Raby said.

Raby said that adolescents are most at risk because their routines have been disrupted with the absence of school, athletics or extra curriculars. It can lead to depression and anxiety, which in turn can lead to drug abuse.

“COVID pretty much equals change,” Raby said. “To decipher the change with COVID versus change within our adolescents inherently can be a very difficult task.”

During this time, Raby said it’s important to check on teenagers to see if there’s a change in behaviors, loss of interest in their usual hobbies or appearing to be more depressed or anxious.

KTAR News 92. FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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