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Why are Babies Overdosing on Fentanyl?

Marcel Gemme By Marcel Gemme | Last Updated: 19 September 2023
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It’s hard to imagine, but we’ve reached a point in America’s drug epidemic where it’s not uncommon to hear about babies overdosing on drugs and dying. And we’re not talking about in-utero. Infants, toddlers, and young children are regularly dying across the country from lethal doses of opioids, namely the notorious fentanyl. But why, and how is this happening? 

The fentanyl overdose headlines are shocking

In January of 2022, Bakersfield, CA. police were dispatched to a call for a baby who wasn’t breathing. The 1-year-old boy was revived with CPR and transported to a local hospital, where thankfully, he recovered. The police later learned the child was experiencing a fentanyl overdose due to exposure to drug paraphernalia. Fentanyl and drug paraphernalia were found throughout the residence and even in the child’s crib, according to a report from a local news source. 

In Ohio, another opioid hotspot, the same thing is happening. One report from an Ohio news station details the incident involving another one-year-old boy in January of 2022. After being taken to the hospital for not breathing, police were contacted to investigate his death. They received a warrant and searched the parents’ house, where fentanyl was discovered. Eventually, both parents admitted to using and selling the drug. However, they were “unsure” how he got into it. They were both arrested and charged. 

Three people faced charges in Paso Robles, CA., after a seven-month-old child died in the hospital. Upon examination, the baby tested positive for fentanyl and methamphetamine. Investigators served a search warrant at the parents’ home and found narcotics. They also found evidence that someone had tried to clean the crime scene before detectives could serve the warrant. Perhaps even worse, the parents tried to get more drugs while waiting at the hospital. 

Sadly, these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. A quick internet search of “a child dies from fentanyl” yields far more results than anyone would hope to see. But what’s especially concerning about this horrific trend is that it’s so new. These overdose deaths among babies and young children have only become commonplace within the last few years. 

Why is fentanyl so dangerous?

Fentanyl use is rising dramatically. The drug is becoming more and more common, ravaging the country as it moves from the east coast to the west. And we’re now seeing more opioid deaths than ever before. 

According to addicted.org, an online substance abuse resource, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is legally available only through prescription. People also illicitly manufacture the drug and then sell it on the streets like any other illegal drug. It is usually sold in powder or pill form to be swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected. However, it is sometimes mixed into heroin or cocaine because it is often cheaper and more powerful, leading to people unknowingly ingesting the drug and often dying.

Covid perpetuated the fentanyl problem

The Covid-19 pandemic did nothing to help America’s drug epidemic, which many believed was winding down. Instead, we’ve reached a new peak. Fueled by the coronavirus and fentanyl, 2020 saw the highest total of drug overdose deaths ever recorded in American history. That figure was followed the next year by the first-ever eclipse of 100,000 lives lost to drug overdoses. These figures dwarfed the previous records from the opioid epidemic, including the height of the Oxycontin tragedy in the 2000s. 

To put this dramatic rise in drug use into perspective, fentanyl is now the number one cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45. That means fentanyl overdoses are taking more lives among young adults than suicide, Covid-19, and car accidents. Fentanyl is now tied to 64% of all drug fatalities in this country, and since 2019, fentanyl overdose deaths have virtually doubled. 

Preventing fentanyl overdoses in small children

The drug is so powerful that only a few grains can kill an adult. It can even be absorbed through the skin and has killed many adults that way. So, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t take much for a child to be lethally exposed. 

We must face this tragedy without shying away. The subject is horrific and something no one wants to think about. But, unless we do, addiction has proven that it doesn’t resolve itself easily without intervention. 

It’s time to intervene. Let’s protect America’s youth by confronting the raging drug epidemic and tackling it with a portion of the resolve and urgency given to Covid-19. If we did that, we just might begin seeing the type of quick progress we see with Covid. After all, America’s drug epidemic has been an issue for far longer and has undoubtedly claimed more lives. 




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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.