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Few Teens Receive Addiction Treatment After an Opioid Overdose

Opioid pills spilling out of a prescription bottle onto a blue counter

A new report shows that even after a teen survives an opioid overdose, very few receive addiction treatment or the appropriate follow-up care. Researchers found when looking at teen overdose data, that of the nearly 3,8000 teens and young adults experienced an opioid overdose, less than 1/3 went into treatment for addiction within a month.

Only one in 54 received the medication recommended to help them with opioid dependence.

Its startling information as the rates of opioid abuse in teens continue to remain a problem in the U.S. Even when facing a life-threatening situation because of opioids, teen addiction help is not readily available or perhaps not accepted. The results are that even after a teen experiences an opioid overdose, they continue using the drugs.

Researchers say it’s a disturbing pattern because, following a teen overdose, young people are in contact with health care providers. These are people who can and should be directing them toward addiction treatment resources. There’s also the fact that teens who experience an overdose are at a high risk of experiencing another one within three months.

Problems with Teen Opioid Treatment

When it comes to opioid use among youth, there are barriers to them receiving counseling and the appropriate opioid treatment medication. For example, methadone, which is one of the main opioid treatment medication options, can only be given through specialty clinics. To receive another medication, buprenorphine, you have to go to providers that have undergone training. These doctors have to agree to limit the number of patients they’ll treat with buprenorphine.

Previous studies have shown underage patients in treatment for opioid addiction and dependence only receive medication at a tenth of the rate of adults. This could be because of the lack of access, as well as the stigma around receiving opioid dependence medications.

Among the teens who overdose and were assessed in the study, only 19% had a diagnosis of an opioid use disorder in their medical records. This could point to another problem, which is the fact that ER providers aren’t diagnosing an overdose as part of a chronic medical disorder. It could be helpful to better train providers on the front lines of overdoses, such as ER doctors, to be better equipped to screen for opioid addiction.

Benefits of Teen Drug Rehab

Teen drug rehab and teen relapse prevention are important areas of focus. There are challenges teens face that adults don’t. For example, our brains don’t fully develop until we’re around 25 years old, so using opioids could mean teen brains are more susceptible to their effects.

With teen drug rehab and teen relapse prevention programs can come significant, lifelong benefits. By addressing the problem earlier on a teen may be less likely to develop complications later in life. Being in a program geared specifically toward teens is particularly important. Adolescents are more likely to experience a successful recovery if they receive treatment options tailored to them in terms of their developmental, psychological, and social needs.

States around the country are also looking at ways they can provide more teen addiction help, reduce opioid abuse in teens, and make treatment options more accessible overall.

If your teen is struggling with substance abuse, Next Generation Village offers developmentally-appropriate treatment programs. Contact us to learn more.


Rapaport, Lisa. “After opioid overdose, poor teens rarely get addiction treatment.” Reuters, January 9, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Bowen, Alison. “Teens who overdose on opioids often don’t get follow-up treatment within 30 days. ‘We just wouldn’t accept (this) for other pediatric illnesses.” Chicago Tribune, January 29, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Norton, Amy. “Few U.S. teen opioid overdose survivors get recommended care.” UPI, January 8, 2020. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Winters, Ken C.; et al. “Advances in adolescent substance abuse treatment.” Current psychiatry reports vol. 13,5 (2011): 416-21. doi:10.1007/s11920-011-0214-2. Accessed February 24, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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