COLORADO, USA — Whether it's by accident or on purpose, kids are ending up at Children's Hospital Colorado because of fentanyl.
Dr. Sam Wang, an associate professor of pediatrics in the emergency department and medical toxicology, said any increase in certain poisonings in the community trickles down to the pediatric population.
"What's going on right now is specific in that we're getting overwhelmed by these fake counterfeit pills that look like oxycodone, they're blue," Wang said.
He says these pills are often mostly fentanyl.
That's how Dr. Andreas Edrich's 17-year-old patient recently died.
"He had never really dabbled in opiates," Edrich said. "When I asked the coroner what's the verdict, he said M-30s, those are the fake Morphine 30s, the blues."
Edrich is a family practice physician, and he's also an addiction specialist.
"I'm asking a thousand heroin addicts how old were you when you started with anything at all ever," he said. "It was always age 13, with marijuana or alcohol, doesn't matter, something. It could be Oreo cookies for all I care. It's something they're using to self medicate."
He said that first step of self-medication often turns to something else, and because that new drug is often fentanyl, kids are dying right away.
"But when they have no tolerance and no experience on it, you can't go from zero to fentanyl," Edrich said. "You're dead."
In 2021, data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) shows 35 kids ages from 10 to 18 died from a fentanyl overdose. That's compared to five in 2019.
Edrich said he wants to know why more people aren't intervening with 11 and 12-year-olds to work on the root cause of why they're trying to self-medicate in the first place.
"Why am I seeing them at age 25 or 30 when they've already progressed down the road, we don't talk to patients after the fourth heart attack, we start talking to patients when they're teenagers," he said.
To end the opioid epidemic, Edrich said parents need to ask more questions early on, and behavioral health professionals are needed in every elementary and middle school before it's too late.
“Your parents finally pick up on it when you’re 16 or 18, and maybe you seek therapy, good you have a lot of second chances," he said about kids who might be smoking weed or drinking alcohol. "One chance, fentanyl. One chance, you’re dead."
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