Opioid-related deaths among teens and young children have nearly tripled since 1999, according to a study published Friday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that 8,986 children and adolescents under the age of 20 died from opioid-related causes between 1999 and 2016 in what the researchers referred to as an "epidemic" of abuse.
"What began more than 2 decades ago as a public health problem primarily among young and middle-aged white males is now an epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid abuse that is taking a toll on all segments of US society, including the pediatric population," the researchers wrote.
The study showed that 73 percent of the deaths were male and 88 percent involved children aged 15 to 19 years old.
"These findings suggest that the opioid epidemic is likely to remain a growing public health problem in the young unless legislators, public health officials, clinicians, and parents take a wider view of the opioid crisis and implement protective measures that are pediatric specific and family centered," the researchers said.
An overwhelming amount of the deaths, 80 percent, were ruled unintentional, though the study did also examine a number of suicides, which doubled in frequency among children and adolescents during this time period.
The study's release comes two months after President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE signed into law a sweeping bill aimed at curbing the opioid abuse epidemic gripping the U.S. The legislation lifted some restrictions on Medicaid funding for opiate treatment and reauthorized funding for the 21st Century Cures Act. It also puts $500 million per year toward fighting the opioid crisis.
"Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction in America," Trump said at a White House ceremony in October. "We are either going to end it or we are going to make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem."