How the Opioid Epidemic Affects Children

Post Image

People who are battling an addiction aren’t alone, and their actions affect other people, including their children. People who abuse opioids come from families, and sometimes they are parents. When they lose custody of their children as a result of their substance abuse, many of these young people end up moving in with relatives, such as a grandparent or an aunt. Others, with no place to go, will be put into the foster care system, which is overwhelmed already.

The nation’s ongoing opioid crisis is sending many of these children into the foster care, and some sources say states are struggling to keep up with demand for services amid the surge in opioid-related overdose deaths. Georgia, Indiana, and West Virginia were among the states with the biggest one-year increases in their foster care populations, according to an Associated Press news report. The news agency also noted that each of those states also was “each grappling with extensive substance abuse problems.”

In data released in November 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that the number of children in foster care increased. At the end of fiscal year 2016, the number of children in foster care went up to 437,500, from 427,400 at the end of fiscal year 2015.

HHS also reported that of the 15 categories states can report for circumstances involved in the removal of a child from the home, parental drug abuse had the highest percentage point increase, “from 32 percent in FY 2015 to 34 percent in FY 2016.”

About “92,000 children were removed from their home in FY [fiscal year] 2016 because at least one parent had a drug abuse issue,” the agency reports.

An article by the Seattle Timessays those 92,000 children who entered the system that year made up a third of the 274,000 children who entered foster care in the U.S. According to the newspaper, the number of children in foster care hasn’t been this high since the wave of crack cocaine use of the 1980s.

“The continued trend of parental substance abuse is very concerning, especially when it means children must enter foster care as a result,” said Steve Wagner, acting assistant secretary for Children and Families, in a news release. “The seriousness of parental substance abuse, including the abuse of opioids, is an issue we at HHS will be addressing through prevention, treatment, and recovery-support measures.”

Helping the Children Displaced Over Opioid Abuse

In a January 2018 article, Lorna Collier wrote for the American Psychological Association (APA) that psychologists are treating children in the foster care system in outpatient, inpatient and residential treatment programs, and school-based mental health programs to help lessen the effects they may have experienced because of the displacement.

The trauma children can face as a result of their parents’ opioid use can be complex, Collier writes. She talked with psychologist Anthony Mannarino, Ph.D., director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, who said, “We see kids who found their parent when they overdosed and were waiting until the paramedics came. In those cases, a parent may have died and the child is often left wondering what he or she could have done to save the parent.”

Mannarino said he’s also seen an increase in the number of children who enter foster care because of a biological parent’s opioid use disorder.

Other problems children can have include:

  • Poor cognitive, social, and emotional development
  • Depression, anxiety, and other trauma and mental health symptoms
  • Physical and health issues
  • Substance use problems

“This is a neglected subpopulation,” John Kelly, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry in addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the APA. Kelly, who is also the founder and director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, “Because we’re trying to put out the fire in terms of stopping overdose deaths, we haven’t really been attending to other casualties, including kids most importantly.”

Opioid Crisis Nowhere Near Over

The statistics of the opioid epidemic continue to change as the crisis continues and officials look for ways to curb opioid-related deaths. But so far, the numbers are no better from year to year. Health and Human Services, by request of President Donald Trump, declared in 2017 that the U.S. was in the middle of a nationwide public health emergency.

At the time, the data reported in an HHS news release were:

  • Each day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die from drug overdoses, 91 specifically due to opioids.
  • 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015.
  • Preliminary numbers indicate at least 64,000 died in 2016.

In April 2017, the HHS shared its five-point Opioid Strategy that aimed to:

  • Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
  • Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
  • Support cutting-edge research on addiction and pain
  • Advance the practice of pain management


Get Help for Opioid Addiction at Arete Recovery

Addiction has always been hard on families, but without professional help, the cycle continues and children get left further behind. People who find they have an opioid use disorder may want to consider receiving professional addiction treatment help to end their physical and psychological dependence on these drugs, which include the illegal drug heroin and the deadly drug fentanyl.

Arete Recovery can help you or your loved detox safely during opioid withdrawal and enter a quality treatment program after you’re done. Our caring and dedicated staff will be there to support you in any way, answer your questions, and address your concerns. If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, call us at 1-844-612-6411 today or contact us online for a free consultation and assessment.

Related Reading

Leave a Comment