The teen years are tough for many youngsters, and depression and anxiety became even more widespread among teens during the pandemic.
According to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics, depression and anxiety symptoms during the first year of COVID-19 doubled among adolescents, and as the COVID-19 crisis dragged on the rates became even higher, especially among older teens.
That may account, in part, for the alarming spike in drug overdose deaths among U.S. teens ages 14 to 18, even as overall drug use declines.
A research letter published in JAMA says that "the death rate for drug overdoses in that age group ... nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020, and continued to rise early in 2021, reaching a rate of 5.49 deaths per 100,000 adolescents."
Another reason for the spike is that today's drugs are highly addictive and potentially lethal — much worse than the drugs of even 20 years ago. The evermore common presence of the ultra-lethal fentanyl in street drugs accounts for 77% of adolescent overdose deaths.
If you suspect your teen is depressed or anxious, or is experimenting with drugs, don't write it off to normal adolescent behavior. Talk to him or her about the risks of trying street drugs even once — they're super-potent and can addict or kill.
Help is available from The American Academy of Child & Adolescent psychiatry at www.aacap.org, from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (check out "If You Have a Problem with Drugs: For Teens and Young Adults), and from the Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression at www.heardalliance.org.