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It’s no secret that today’s youth has it a lot harder than we did when we were their age. There is mounting evidence that shows teens and youth are turning up in more emergency rooms across the country because of opioid use than ever before. Experts are saying this is just the beginning.

As young people continue to get access to painkillers from their parents, or by buying them illegally on the street, more young people are at risk for addiction and even death. More often than not, the discovery of these addictions is brought about by another issue that brings a young person into an emergency department, and it is discovered that the young person is actually addicted to opioids.

There is an opioid overdose epidemic happening in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died as a result of opioid use in the United States, according to the CDC.

Opioid use has been a growing problem for adults in the United States as well. Nearly half of all the deaths related to opioid use in 2015 were related to prescription opioids.

For the first time, opioid addiction is popping up as a problem for even younger people. In the pediatric age group, doctors in Iowa are seeing opioid use and addiction from a very young age. People under the age of 21 have been diagnosed with opioid dependency by the tens of thousands. It’s a matter of crisis when it comes to the state of public health.

It is likely that these numbers represent an underestimate because there is only data on young people who come into emergency rooms. It is difficult to collect data that has been derived from clinical and urgent care interactions, not to mention the people that get missed in the hospital that are admitted for other reasons.

Opioid addiction isn’t selective: anyone can become addicted to opioids because more than half of the addictions and dependencies have come from a legitimate prescription. Injury or trauma can require potent medication to manage the pain after a person has had an accident, and while doctors are hesitant to prescribe these kinds of medications, they do help a great deal to manage the pain that is associated with traumatic incidents and accidents.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been working with doctors to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions that are given out, but for some people, it is the only thing that can alleviate pain. Being realistic about the amount of pain a person can suffer from after an injury, accident, or surgery is important to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions that get handed out each year. No one should expect to be completely pain-free, and that expectation can lead to an addiction when the person tries to compensate for pain with medication.

In addition to opioid addiction, a large number of children are suffering from side-effects related to opioid use, and withdrawal is the same no matter the age of the user. This is more common for children who are hospitalized due to chronic illness or injury, but the problem remains worrisome for the CDC and health boards across the nation.