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Fentanyl Crisis Impact on Infants and Toddlers in the U.S.

The number of drug overdoses nationwide has fallen for the first time in years, but the incidences of children overdosing has surged, as they are exposed to opioids and drug paraphernalia at home or by accidental ingestion.

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An infant cools off at a fountain in Battery Park in New York, the United States, June 20, 2012. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

As the fentanyl crisis ravages U.S. communities, toddlers and infants increasingly are becoming unsuspecting victims of an opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin, according to public health experts.

While adults make up the vast number of fentanyl-related deaths, more children below the age of 5 are dying or arriving in emergency rooms testing positive for the drug, public health experts say.

“The number of drug overdoses nationwide has fallen for the first time in years, but the incidences of children overdosing has surged, doctors say, as they are exposed to opioids and drug paraphernalia at home or by accidental ingestion,” reported Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

Although West Virginia has the highest fentanyl-related death rate, California has the most deaths overall, with 6,473 in 2022. Officials nationwide are struggling to come up with solutions to prevent young children from dying, according to the report.

“If you have these children that are left in chaotic homes, in homes that have … drugs around, that just increases the risk exponentially, particularly for these little vulnerable kids that explore their world by putting everything in their mouths,” Emily Rose, co-author of a study about recognizing and treating pediatric and adolescent opioid overdoses, was quoted as saying.

America’s Poison Centers, which represents 55 accredited poison control centers in the United States, reports a dramatic increase in fentanyl exposure in young children nationwide. In 2016, the centers received 10 reports of fentanyl exposure in children under age 6. That number was 539 in 2023.

In California, preliminary data from the Department of Public Health show 11 fentanyl-related deaths occurred in the state in children younger than 5 years old during the first three quarters of 2023, the most recent statistics available. There were 10 deaths for all of 2022 and six fentanyl-related deaths in 2021.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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