Fentanyl pill seizures in L.A. region skyrocketed to highest since 2006
This story has been updated to include responses from the state Department of Justice.
The number of California children using or abusing prescription pain medication more than doubled over the past three years, state officials said Thursday.
Statewide, child abuse, neglect and death from opioid-related side effects have fallen in recent years, prompting doctors to prescribe more pills to children and adolescents without a prescription. But the number of children abusing or misusing such pills — a dangerous practice that has caused overdoses and death in neighboring states — has soared in recent years, according to the state Department of Justice.
In L.A., that problem has reached levels not seen in decades, with the county’s police department having received at least seven reports of children overdosing and one fatality from the use of the pills.
The number of children using fentanyl, a powerful opioid that can be 50,000 times more powerful than the pain medication Vicodin, has reached a record of 7,946 cases, according to an analysis by the state Department of Health Services. That compares with 2,345 cases in 2018 and 2,105 in 2017, a year before the state began requiring doctors to report patients using fentanyl.
“It’s a new plague on our community,” said Dr. J. David Paulson, the department’s director.
The increase has occurred in the midst of a national problem with overprescribing of opioids, which have killed more than 400,000 people since 1999.
To combat the problem, California will require doctors who prescribe opioids for pain to use their patients’ medical records to identify fentanyl use, the department said. And in a bid to curb opioid misuse, the California health exchange said Wednesday it will offer a free drug-abuse assessment on its website, with the state’s first intake expected in September.