*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HeathDay.
The rate of opioid drug overdose deaths among older teenagers in the United States has taken a turn for the worse, a new federal report finds.
The number of drug overdose deaths among 15- to 19-year-olds rose 15 percent for males from 2014 to 2015 and 35 percent for females from 2013 to 2015, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the disturbing numbers may not simply be a case of the well-publicized epidemic of opioid painkiller abuse spreading to another age group.
"These trends fit into the overall picture: Overdose of opioid pills is the bigger problem among middle age and older age groups, while heroin and heroin contaminated by fentanyl are a huge problem among younger people," said Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies drug use.
The report, from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, looked at drug overdose deaths among people aged 15 to 19 from 1999-2015.
According to the report, the drug overdose death rate more than doubled from 1999-2007, then fell by about a quarter from 2007-2014 among 15- to 19-year-olds, particularly males.
In 2015, however, there were 772 total drug overdose deaths among people aged 15 to 19, the report said. Those deaths included about 500 males and almost 300 females.
Heroin was the most common cause of fatal opioid overdose in the 15-to-19 age group.
"Heroin has been a stealth contributor to opioid deaths, climbing since 2005 as prescription pill deaths have decreased since the mid-2000s. Then fentanyl came along in 2014, making the heroin environment deadlier," said Ciccarone, who was not involved with the study.