NIHCM Newsletter / March 2023

Teen Health Crisis

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021.

Adolescent Mental Health & Wellbeing

A new CDC report points to record levels of violence, trauma, and mental health concerns for teenagers, with girls and LGBQ+ youth faring more poorly (the survey did not ask about transgender identity). The findings highlight how the pandemic made things worse for many kids.

  • Violence: Violence puts adolescent lives at risk and can lead to mental health problems, risky behavior, and reduced academic success. The CDC report contains data on violence among high schoolers, including sexual violence, feeling unsafe at school, bullying, and cyberbullying.
  • Technology: High use of social media is associated with mental health problems. Social media impacts how teens interact with one another during a developmentally important time in life. According to new research, limiting social media usage can make teens feel better about their body image.
  • Supporting Mental Health: Young people who identify as LGBTQ+ are less likely to feel depressed with parental support. Additionally, public schools and states are taking steps to expand access to mental health services.

Resources & Initiatives:

Substance Use: Trends & Treatment

Deaths due to substance use disorder (SUD) have risen during the pandemic. A study found that while drug use rose among adults, it dropped dramatically in youth. There is a need to address overdoses due to multiple drugs, primarily fentanyl’s involvement, and increase access to treatment services.

  • Xylazine: The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on the illegal importation of xylazine, a potent animal tranquilizer colloquially known as ‘tranq.’ Xylazine causes wounds so severe that they require amputation. Since the drug is a sedative, not an opioid, it doesn’t respond to standard opioid overdose reversal treatment. While xylazine’s true prevalence is unknown, it has been detected in 25% of drug samples in New York City.
  • Treatment: In 2019, only 1 in 10 people received substance use treatment within the year. The federal government made it easier for clinicians to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, which could help reduce overdose deaths dramatically. It is still difficult for many people to access methadone for their addiction treatment.
  • Alcohol: About 1 in 8 deaths among adults aged 20 to 64 years were attributable to excessive alcohol use. Researchers attributed about 40% of those deaths to acute causes, such as car crashes, but the remaining are related to chronic conditions, such as liver disease and cancer. Few people are referred to treatment for alcohol use disorder.

Resources & Initiatives:

In Other Public Health News…

Environmental Concerns: Last month, a train derailment in Ohio spilled more than 100,000 gallons of toxic chemicals and led to a controlled burn of the substances, polluting the air and water. While it may take years to understand the health effects of the spill on residents of the surrounding areas, at least one of the leaked chemicals is linked to increased risk of cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia. Shipments of the hazardous waste have led to contaminated water and soil in Texas and Michigan.


  • Learn more about the Ohio train derailment with these graphics.
  • STAT’s recent article explains chemicals found at the site of the spill and their impact on health.

Food Insecurity: On March 1, 2023, more than 30 million Americans faced the end of pandemic-era Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) boosts known as emergency allotments (EAs). Originally rolled out in April 2020 to address rising food insecurity, EAs increased food-stamp benefits. The looming “hunger cliff” is exacerbated by rising costs as groceries were 11.3% more expensive in January 2023 than the previous year.

Resources and Initiatives:

  • Learn more about SNAP Emergency Allotments in each state with these fact sheets.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico recently delivered food to more than 1,000 people living on Navajo Nation, the country’s largest Native American tribe.
  • Florida Blue recently awarded $3.73 million in grants to community-based programs that address barriers and strengthen local food security initiatives.
  • Last month, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana sponsored 200,000 meals at food banks across the state.
  • Learn more about food insecurity and health with NIHCM’s recent webinar and infographic.

COVID-19 & the Flu: A study found that vaccinating against the flu and COVID-19 reduced infections and hospitalizations. Individuals are now able to test for both illnesses at home with the first combination flu and COVID-19 which was recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.


  • Learn more about flu and COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.
  • Find out more about the first combination COVID-19 and flu test.

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