One of the greatest tragedies of the opioid epidemic is how it devastates families.
The most recent numbers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), show that 115 people die every day from opioid overdose in the US. Out of the tens of thousands of people losing their lives to opioids each year, a large number of them leave behind children. Some health officials call kids who have lost their parents to the ongoing crisis “opioid orphans”. And recent data shows how the impact of the epidemic on the foster care system has been staggering.
In many cases, a child may be removed from their birth parents custody if a court determines them unfit due to their drug use, or a child may lose their parents forever to overdose. All around the country, this has become a growing problem. Experts believe the opioid and heroin addiction epidemic has severely impacted the rising number of children orphaned or essentially abandoned by their parents.
Opioid Orphans: Surviving an Outbreak
All over the country, there are opioid orphans living with family members after losing their parents. The Department of Health and Human Services states that in 2016:
- Approximately 92,000 children were removed from their homes because at least one parent had an issue with substance abuse
- 34% of cases with children removed from the home were related to substance abuse
According to other recent reports:
- 2.7 million grandparents and other relatives are raising opioid orphans all across America
- Children 3-5 years old have the highest rates of living with their grandparents
- 642,000 3-5 year-olds live with both grandparents
- 660,000 3-5 year-olds live with their grandmothers
- 114,000 3-5 year-olds live with their grandfathers
It is hard to solidify the exact figures connecting the heroin epidemic to the overall increase in children being cared for by someone other than their parents. However, there are many signs that indicate there is a very real connection between these two issues.
For example, according to Kentucky Youth Advocates, the state has:
- The highest rate of “kinship care” in the country
- Estimated 68,000 children there live with a grandparent or blood relative
- 8,200 are in foster care
Meanwhile, Kentucky also has an opioid-overdose death rate of 23.6 per 100,000 people. That is nearly double the national opioid overdose death rate.
Sadly, in many cases, the children do not have a family to take them in, at which point they become part of an already strained foster care system.
In both rural and urban areas, the opioid epidemic is reported to have created an outbreak of abandoned and orphaned children. In Ohio, one of the states hit the worst by the opioid crisis:
- 14% increase in children in agency custody in 5 years
- Approximately 14,000 children in agency custody in 2017
Ohio’s Attorney General, Mike DeWine, states:
“We think about 50% of the kids who are in foster care in Ohio are there because one or both parents are in fact drug addicts.”
West Virginia has seen similar spikes in the last few years. According to West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR):
- 24% increase in children in foster care between 2012 and 2016
- 5,182 children in foster care in 2016
- 6,399 children were in foster care in 2017
It is difficult to give an exact number of how many of these cases are directly due to substance abuse. However, officials who have worked with the West Virginia DHHR have suggested that anywhere between 50% and 90% of new foster care cases were related to substance abuse.
Between 2011 and 2015, 14 states saw the number of children in the foster care system spike by more than a quarter. According to the advocacy group Children’s Rights, kids in many states, including Texas and Oregon, have been forced to sleep in state buildings because there were not enough foster homes for them all.
Looking at the data, it is truly heartbreaking to imagine how many thousands of opioid orphans are living every day not knowing when or where they will ever have a home.
Opioid Orphans: Examining the Impact
How can we measure the impact of parental addiction on children?
Some teens slowly watch as their normal life is torn apart by drugs, while other kids grow up experiencing horrific trauma and abuse. Many opioid orphans watch their parents try to get clean for years; while others are forced to watch their parents die of an overdose, not knowing why or how to help.
Then there are the opioid orphans who are themselves born addicted. Recent data suggests that every 15 minutes, a baby is born substance-exposed. This year almost 50,000 of these children will enter the foster care system, more than ever before. Many children born with prenatal exposure to opioids and other drugs have to fight from the moment they are born. And once they enter into the foster system, their lives often become another battle.
There is no set standard for examining the impact of a parent’s addiction on children. On one hand, there are thousands of healthy infants who eventually end up in safe and loving foster homes until their birth parents can get help. Meanwhile, other children are so devastated by a parent’s addiction that they develop their own problems with drugs or alcohol. Some kids find themselves stuck in a cycle of foster family after foster family or end up living in a group home. While it is often a better place than living with addicted parents, group homes can be strained by overcrowding and limited resources.
Sadly, so many opioid orphans struggle to cope with the loss of their parent or being taken from their homes. These children often grapple with issues like feelings of abandonment and anxiety. They can end up suffering academically, socially, mentally and emotionally due to their experiences with an addicted parent.
Opioid Orphans: Healing a Generation
One thing we can say with certainty is this generation has a larger population of opioid orphans than America has ever seen. More and more children have lost their parents to overdose, been abandoned by their parent for drugs, or been taken from their family because of substance abuse in the home. So how will these kids grow up? Despite having loving grandparents and relatives, or compassionate foster families, what will be the long-term outcome of kids who lose their mothers and fathers to opioids?
Officials believe that there needs to be more support and better regulation for the foster care system. Many believe there should be giving more financial support to institutions dealing with opioid orphans and other foster children. Some officials also insist there should be better legislation to protect the rights of the children affected by the loss of a parent.
Of course, a huge part of helping children impacted by opioids is to help heal their families. A crucial component of healing this generation of opioid orphans is to help put their families back together. This means giving their parents an opportunity to get the help they need.
No child should have to grow up without parents who love them.
There should be more services that assist foster care providers, grandparents and other relatives with giving these children a better quality of life. And likewise, there should be expanded access to holistic addiction treatment for the parents. Because people with addiction also deserve to have a better quality of life.
This almost means making families part of the recovery process. Healing those who suffer and reuniting families should always be a priority in the battle against addiction.
Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in reuniting loved ones and help families heal. Recovery from addiction is about working together to ensure that people who have suffered have a chance at a better future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
These days it is pretty much impossible to In case you missed it, the latest news concerning opioid overdoses in America is not good. Just this week a report was released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that only reminds us of just how horrific the opioid epidemic is. In most of the country, this crisis continues to get worse.
While we still don’t have a complete picture of the death toll in 2017 concerning opioids, the most up-to-date data shows that overdoses have spiked nationwide. Examining reports from hospital emergency rooms, the report compares the overall increase in opioid overdoses from the third quarter of 2016 up until the third quarter of 2017.
According to this data, opioid overdoses to increase by 30% in only a year.
Rising Overdose Rates by Region
In every age group, with both men and women, opioid overdoses are increasing, according to CDC Director Anne Schuchat. The Midwest has been the hardest hit region in that 12 month period. According to the CDC report:
- 7% increase in opioid overdoses in the Midwest
- 3% increase in the West
- 3% increase in the Northeast
- 2% increase in the Southwest
- 14% increase in the Southeast
All this may not come as much of a surprise for many Midwesterners. When you look at the last few years, the opioid crisis has not been kind to these communities. Of the counties with the highest overdose death rates per capita over the last few years, we consistently find some of the top spots going to states like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.
Needless to say, these devastating figures aren’t exclusive to the Midwest. A few more examples include:
- 109% increase of opioid overdose in Wisconsin
- 105% increase in Delaware
- 6% increase in Pennsylvania
- 34% increase in Maine
Luckily, not all areas are experiencing record highs. Some states are actually fortunate enough to see a slight decrease in overdoses, including:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Even in Kentucky, which has been a Midwestern state hit pretty hard over the years, the CDC analysis saw a 15% drop.
The CDC report does not specify as to why certain regions are experiencing overdoses differently, but one factor experts say has most likely played a key role is the availability of more potent opioids. The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been making its way onto the streets more and more over the last couple years, and supply of drugs like fentanyl has increased much faster in certain areas, which probably has a lot to do with the difference in overdose rates per region.
Analyzing Opioid Crisis
The recent report was meant to take a closer look at the opioid crisis by analyzing overdose reports in emergency rooms instead of opioid deaths like the CDC had previously focused on. CDC Director Anne Schuchat said these numbers lag behind the emergency room reports, and that the agency wanted “more timely information” to work with.
The data utilized for this analysis came from:
- Approximately 90 million emergency room visits
- Reports from July 2016 to September 2017
- 52 jurisdictions in 45 states
- 142,577 suspected opioid overdoses
That survey found an increase of 29.7% in opioid overdoses. The research also analyzed:
- 45 million emergency department visits
- Reports from July 2016 to September 2017
- 16 States
- 119,198 suspected opioid overdoses
This analysis shows a 34.5% increase during the same period, but those increases vary drastically from state to state.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of opinions on how to look at this mountain of information and see a way through it. But many experts are convinced that so far we have been failing those who are suffering the most. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University, states:
“It is concerning that 20 years into this epidemic, it is still getting worse. The number of Americans experiencing opioid overdoses is still increasing.”
Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum, is one of many voices who are advocating for a more compassionate and supportive system. Those like Nickel believe that the key element to changing the opioid crisis is better integration of addiction treatment into a more comprehensive and effective healthcare system. Some, including Nickel, believe even emergency room staff should be better prepared to help get follow-up addiction treatment for people with substance use disorder.
Addiction isn’t going away anytime soon, and perhaps one of the most tragic parts of the problem is that so many people never get the help they need. Too many are afraid to ask for help, and plenty more still don’t know how to get help. Providing safe and effective substance use disorder treatment isn’t just useful, but vital to our future. So taking advantage of these programs and supporting expanded access to addiction treatment should be at the forefront of the conversation if we hope to break this trend and save lives. If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. You are not alone.
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No one loves harder than a mother, and the pain a mother feels when a child suffers one cannot even imagine. So when a mother loses a child, the hurt can do a lot of things. For some mothers, it pushes them to action, and that is exactly what happens to a grieving mom in Ohio who recently launched a battle against drug overdoses with a roadside billboard after the loss of her son.
Following the overdose death of her son, Lenora Lada paid to put up a billboard in the Marietta, Ohio to raise awareness about the Good Samaritan laws. She takes this action in hopes that other mothers may not have to grieve as she does.
Trey’s Life Mattered
The sign Lada bought shows a picture of her son, Trey Moats, and reads,
“His Life Mattered: No Excuse For Not Calling 911 or taking someone to a hospital,”
Trey’s mother had known about his struggles with addiction but had felt helpless as her 26-year-old child was unwilling to get the help he needed.
Then one day at 3:26 in the morning, she got a call from her son’s friends. Trey had been in a car with these friends when his lips turned blue as he overdosed, so they had driven him to another friend’s house to ask a mother there to perform CPR. But because they were too afraid to call 911, they called Trey’s mother instead and told her to come and get him. Lenora Lada states that by the time she arrived, her son was on the ground already gurgling.
By the time Lada arrived at her son’s side, it had already been 20-25 minutes. When she asked if someone had called 911, she was told by the other mother,
“No, I don’t want the squad and the sheriffs coming to my house again.”
Lada demanded that the daughter call 911, but Moats ultimately died at the hospital of multiple organ failures due to cardiac arrest and polysubstance abuse. Ever since that tragic and heartbreaking moment, Lenora Lada is determined to make sure people know that her son’s life mattered, as do the lives of other victims of overdose. The billboard also states:
“3/10 Mile could have saved Trey’s life.”
Lada believes a call to emergency responders could have saved her son. The sheriff’s report, however, states it is unclear if her son would have survived even if he was taken to the hospital. Local news reports that one coroner said Trey would have been brain dead, but another coroner did not seem so sure.
One thing is for sure though, Trey’s life did matter. And whether or not it was certain to make a difference, something more should have been done to try and save this young man’s life. That is why now Lada is also focused on raising awareness for Good Samaritan laws in Ohio.
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Good Samaritan Awareness
According to the Good Samaritan law:
- Authorities cannot prosecute anyone who calls 911 to report an overdose
- Protects the person overdosing from prosecution
- Immunity is only good two times
- The law is not applicable to people on parole
Ohio’s Good Samaritan laws also require a survivor of an overdose to obtain a drug treatment referral within 30 days in order to avoid charges. This measure is in place with hopes to show more people who do suffer from addiction there are opportunities to seek help.
The intention of Good Samaritan laws is to reduce the hesitation to get help from bystanders who witness an overdose. These laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with different interactions with other legal principals. But in essence, they are meant to prevent unnecessary overdose deaths by trying to take the fear of punishment out of the situation.
Lada also believes she would like part of the law to be changed, stating,
“I am asking for people to be accountable for not getting them help,”
What exactly that would look like is unclear, but for a mom who lost her son, it is an understandable sentiment. In many cases, there have been voices of support for charging drug dealers who sell to overdose victims with murder. So if this were to happen, what kind of punishment should someone face for not reporting an overdose?
Good Samaritan laws exist to help prevent deaths due to drug use, and there should be more of an effort to encourage people to report overdoses. Far too many sons and daughters are lost every day to drug overdoses. We should be taking every action we can to avoid more of the same. To defeat drug-related death requires prevention, education, and effective addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, do not hesitate. Please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
You may remember back in early 2016 the pharmacy organization Walgreens announced two programs to address key issues in the opioid crisis.
- Safe medical disposal kiosks for unused prescription drugs
- Narcan expansion programs
By the end of 2016, Walgreens had expanded access to the opioid overdose antidote without the requirement of a prescription to 33 states and the District of Columbia. The Narcan opioid overdose antidote, also known by the generic name Naloxone, is a nasal spray that is utilized all over the country as a means to revive someone experiencing an opioid overdose.
Now, this life-saving compound is becoming even more accessible, as Walgreens is announcing the Narcan opioid overdose antidote will now be available at all of its over 8,000 pharmacy locations!
Pharmacies Stepping Up to the State of Emergency
This new move to combat the opioid epidemic comes at a crucial time. The epidemic continues to claim lives every day, with recovery advocates and government officials rallying for more resources to fight the problem.
Today, Thursday, October 26, 2017, the nation is expecting President Donald Trump to officially declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency at a scheduled White House event.
According to Rick Gates, Vice President of Walgreens,
“By stocking Narcan in all our pharmacies, we are making it easier for families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case it is needed.”
The company offers Narcan opioid overdose antidote without a prescription in 45 states and is willing to work with the remaining states to make to include them.
Of course, the fight for more availability of Narcan and Naloxone has been going on for some time. However, it seems as the country is calling for more sweeping action from government officials; pharmacies are taking it as a call to action themselves. Rick Gates went on to say,
“As a pharmacy, we are committed to making Narcan more accessible in the communities we serve.”
Walgreens also says it will inform customers about the Narcan opioid overdose antidote if they receive drugs with more than 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME). This is actually a recommendation from the CDC.
It isn’t just Walgreens either. CVS pharmacy has expanded access to Narcan and other products that contain naloxone. CVS reportedly has been offering prescription-free naloxone in up to 43 states as of last month. CVS pharmacies have said that its locations “in most communities have naloxone on hand and can dispense it the same day or ordered for the next business day.”
Big Pharma’s Role
Big Pharma wholesaler AmerisourceBergen is also helping in these efforts. AmerisourceBergen is now distributing Narcan demo devices at no cost to Walgreens pharmacists. These demo devices will help with instructing patients on how to administer the medication safely and effectively.
Robert Mauch, Executive Vice President & Group President, Pharmaceutical Distribution & Strategic Global Sourcing for AmerisourceBergen, states,
“At AmerisourceBergen, we strive to provide our customers the highest quality care and support so they can ultimately enhance the lives of patients in their communities,”
“We recognize the important role we play in addressing the opioid epidemic, and our collaboration with Walgreens is another key milestone to supply our customers with access to lifesaving initiatives and emergency medications that can help keep individuals safe across the country.”
Ironically, AmerisourceBergen just so happens to be one of the three largest drug distributors that were mentioned in the recent 60 Minutes interview with ex-DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi. In the segment that has since caused a major uproar, Rabbazzisi said companies including AmerisourceBergen controlled probably 85%- 90% of drugs that went “downstream” and ended up on the streets.
This might not be what Mauch meant by “recognize the important role we play”, but at least it seems like AmerisourceBergen is taking steps to become part of a solution.
Meanwhile, Adapt Pharma, the manufacturer of Narcan Nasal Spray, celebrates this action by Walgreens to expand naloxone and Narcan access. Seamus Mulligan, CEO at Adapt Pharma states,
“This action is an important milestone and we applaud Walgreens initiatives to improve access to Narcan Nasal Spray in communities across the U.S.,”
“This effort, combined with the opportunity for patients and caregivers to obtain Narcan Nasal Spray without an individual prescription in 45 states, is critical in combating this crisis.”
America is working hard to find the right path on the road to recovery from the devastating opioid crisis. It is crucial that we make every possible resource available to help save lives. With opioid overdose killing an estimated 91 people every day, the need for this life-saving medication could not be more evident.
Beyond reversing the effects of an overdose, there is more we need to do. While having access to Narcan and naloxone can help tremendously, we also need to promote recovery and addiction treatment resources. Preservation of life is important, but giving people the help they need to live a happier and healthier life should also be a priority in the fight to overcome the opioid crisis. Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in actively providing the best in innovative and holistic treatment opportunities, to help transform lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we want to help. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.
The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.
Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.
The Turning Point for America
According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.
Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:
“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”
One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.
GCDP vs War on Drugs
Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.
The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:
“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”
To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction
So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?
Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:
Naloxone Distribution and Training
As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.
Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.
Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.
These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.
Decriminalizing Drugs in America
In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.
The report states:
“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”
With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:
- End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
- Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.
The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.
“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”
We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.
Better Treatment Research
The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.
One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.
Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:
“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”
While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.
Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.
What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?
One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135