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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Why are more kids than ever before overdosing on ADHD drugs in America?
Did you know that the number of U.S. children unnecessarily exposed to powerful medications meant to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has gone through the roof over the past few years? In fact, over a 15-year period, unnecessary exposure to ADHD drugs has increased by more than 60% according to reports!
Study on ADHD Drug Exposure
Recently there was a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on ADHD drug exposure and reports to poison control centers indicate:
- In the year 2000, there were 7,018 calls to poison control centers related to an ADHD drug
- In 2014, there were 11,486 calls to poison control centers related to an ADHD drug
The study defines “exposure” to an ADHD drug as “unnecessary ingestions, inhalation or absorption” of ADHD medications. This includes when the exposure to the drug is both accidental and on purpose.
The study examined data from approximately 156,000 poison center calls made over the course of 15 years. Another disturbing aspect of the data they collected showed:
- 82% of the calls were “unintentional exposure”
- 18% were “intentional exposure”
When taking a closer look at the ADHD drug exposure statistics, the researchers focused in on four of the most common medications used to treat ADHD, including:
Ritalin was the ADHD drug with the highest number of exposures.
One of the lead authors of the study is Dr. Gary Smith. When discussing the conclusions made during the study, Smith states:
“What we found is that, overall, during that 15 years, there was about a 60% increase in the number of individuals exposed and calls reported to poison control centers regarding these medications.”
Smith also concludes that one of the more troublesome findings in the study is the severity of the exposures among the adolescents due to intentional exposure. So essentially, 18% of the calls coming into poison centers concerning an ADHD drug were due to kids taking the medications on purpose.
The study also compared these medications across three different age groups:
- 0-5 years
- 6-12 years
- 13-19 years
In the 0-5 year age group, they discovered that unintentional exposure was due to “exploratory behaviors”. However, with children 6-12 years old, exposure was due to:
- “Therapeutic errors”
- “Accidentally taking multiple pills”
Sadly, among the group 13-19 years old, more than 50% of exposures to an ADHD drug were intentional. Researchers note that many teenagers will use these stimulants because.
Even worse is, of all the poison center calls, around 10% resulted in a serious medical outcome. 10% may not seem like a lot, in regards to poisoning from medications any number is too many.
Ups and Downs
Smith did note that there were some ups and downs in the trends concerning ADHD and complications from the medications. For instance, the study notes:
- Between 2000 and 2011- ADHD drug exposures increased by 71%
- Between 2011 and 2014- ADHD drug exposures dropped by 6.2%
It is unclear why there was this decrease in ADHD drug exposure rates. However, some believe it may be due to the fact that warnings from the FDA about the adverse side-effects of ADHD medications could play a big part in it.
Another thing that stands out about this study is that we have also seen a steady increase in the rate of ADHD diagnosis. Case in point, according to new reports:
- 14% of all American children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2014
- Between 2005 and 2014 the number of ADHD diagnoses more than doubled
While it is important to note that these medications can be helpful for some, they can also be extremely dangerous. According to Dr. Benjamin Shain of NorthShore University HealthSystem and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine,
“Adverse effects of taking too much stimulant medication include fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, tremors, and agitation. Worse case scenarios include schizophrenic-like psychosis, heart attack, stroke, seizures and death,”
Shain adds that adverse effects are the same if you do or do not have ADHD, or if you take too much of the medication. So people who are prescribed an ADHD drug still run the risk of suffering through some of these side-effects.
Making Safer Choices
At the end of the day, it is all about making safer choices for yourself or your loved one. When it comes to treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, there are other important elements. Various therapies can be helpful in creating a more comprehensive treatment plan, such as:
Ironically, these same therapies are also extremely helpful for those who may find themselves abusing these kinds of prescription medications. People suffering from substance use disorder can benefit greatly from these opportunities.
Because these ADHD drugs are stimulants, they also have a tendency to be abused. Either by those with a medical prescription who use too much of the drug or by those with no medical need who use them for the feelings of energy and focus they get. Again, in the case of prescription stimulant abuse, the beginning of a path to recovery means making safer choices. One of the best choices you can make is to seek professional and effective treatment options.
Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in providing innovative and personalized treatment options to anyone battling with substance abuse or addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
One of the very real difficulties many families face today is trying to overcome issues with substance use and addiction. With opioid overdose resulting in the deaths of over 33,000 people in 2015, a rate of death that has consistently risen in the past several years, the opioid crisis is a very relevant concern. This issue does not only impact those abusing drugs but drastically impacts their families and loved ones.
Watching someone struggle with substance abuse or dependence can be a devastating experience. When it comes to those we are closest to, it only amplifies the turmoil. It is so hard to know how to be there for someone who is struggling without doing something that could be counter-productive to making their life better.
So can you protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic? Yes. But how?
What are the things that families members and friends need to focus on in order to keep their loved ones safe?
Understand Proper Pain Management
According to the CDC, approximately 20% of patients who visit their doctors for pain receive an opioid prescription.
Another article on Addictions.com talks about how opioid addictions often begin at home. Some people may still assume that drug addiction begins on the illicit market, but what we have seen more and more over the years is that the opioid epidemic has largely been fueled by prescription drugs.
Many people who struggle with opioid addiction began by using opioid-based painkillers due to a doctor’s prescription. These kinds of medication are not all that strange when dealing with pain management. Powerful prescription opioids are used for:
A lot of times these medications are prescribed for short-term use to try and reduce the risk of dependence after extended use. However, even with short-term prescriptions, these potent opioids can develop a physical dependence with uncomfortable or even painful withdrawal symptoms.
Overprescribing has also become an element in the opioid epidemic spreading through prescription drugs. Having an abundance of people prescribed to opioids also adds to the risk of more abuse.
By understanding these risks, people can better protect themselves and each other from developing a serious dependence. If you are aware of what can happen with opioids, even if legitimately prescribed, you can watch for signs and take action to prevent further risk.
Monitor Your Medicine Cabinet
According to a SAMHSA study from 2015, more than 50% of people addicted to painkillers receive the drugs from family members or friends.
Not only are those who receive opioids for medical reasons at some risk of accidentally developing a dependence, those who live with them can also be at risk of abusing opioids and becoming addicted. The overprescribing of opioids has also created stockpiles of opioids in thousands of homes all over the country. Left-over medications are also making a contribution to high rates of opioid misuse.
Some people who receive an opioid prescription may not actually use the entire prescription, but frequently they hold onto the excess supply of their medications. This is often innocent enough, as people will sometimes want to have something on-hand in case of unexpected pain down the road. Sometimes they might even offer these medications to others in an attempt to help manage a friend or loved one’s pain. However, even with the best intentions, this can be very dangerous.
Not only can giving someone a powerful opioid they are not prescribed be dangerous, simply having this kind of drug lying around is dangerous. Your medicine cabinet can be easily accessed by others within your household.
If you want to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic, make sure that you keep opioid medications under restricted access in your home. Do not play doctor and offer these kinds of drugs to your friends or family.
Also, make sure you properly dispose of any unused medications. You can take excess opioid drugs to a drug drop-off. Find nearby locations, which are often at pharmacies or law enforcement agencies.
Look for Signs of Dependence
Dependence and addiction are two terms that are relatively similar, but not exactly interchangeable.
Opioid dependence refers to how the body builds a tolerance to opioids over time. This process leads to the individual needing increasingly high doses of the drug to receive the same effect. Where addiction is more psychological, dependence is primarily a physical response.
Opioid users become physically dependent on the drugs when they require certain doses to feel and function “normally,” while also trying to avoid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. All of these effects can contribute to the development of a more serious addiction. Some physical signs to watch for include:
- Constricted pupils
- Reparatory depression
- Loss of consciousness/Nodding off
Withdrawal signs can also indicate dependence, including minor symptoms such as:
Understanding the signs or addiction, including withdrawal, can be a way to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic. If you can recognize the warning signs, you might be able to intervene before it is too late.
Seek Professional and Effective Help
Education is key to prevention, no matter what the situation or circumstances. Whatever the adversity, arming yourself with information makes you more effective. At the same time, seeking help from those with knowledge and experience with treating addiction is invaluable. Having a safe and effective resource that knows how to help your loved one overcome an opioid dependence or addiction can make all the difference.
It can be overwhelming, and none of us can protect everyone. However, you can be part of the support system that works to keep your family, friends and loved ones safe.
If your loved one is already struggling with opioids, the best thing you can do to protect them is to get them the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
In late 2016 we talked about a story that had flooded every social media outlet with angry comments and distraught families of addicts. An image had surfaced from East Liverpool, Ohio that showed a horrifying depiction of two parents overdosed in the front seat of a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road, with a child sitting strapped into a car seat in the back. People berated the parents, while demanding the child be taken from them. Others argued that the photo was insensitive to the suffering and helplessness of addiction. The event was used by news outlets everywhere as a focal point for the bigger conversation about the devastation of the opioid epidemic in America.
So while in this case there is no photo to be shared and ranted about, the story of one quick-thinking 5-year-old boy is still a startling dose of reality.
Kids in the Crossfire
This time the child in the story ending up being the only reason his parents are still alive. According to the reports in relation to the story, the young boy rescued his mom and dad who had overdosed on heroin. Around 5 a.m. on Thursday morning the child knocked on the door to his step-grandfather’s house in Middletown, Ohio. He had walked two blocks, barefoot. Initial reports state the little boy told the relative that his parents were dead.
The young child’s step-grandfather Kenneth Currey told reporters,
“When I walked up the steps and seen him laying in the bathroom floor and her in the hallway, I immediately called 911 because I knew what was up,”
While the step-grandfather was describing the incident to the 911 dispatchers, he tried to comfort the young boy. But it was not just the one child either. There was also the boy’s 3-month-old infant sister, who was still strapped into her car seat in the car outside. Likely, the little boy saved his little sister from a great deal of risk as well.
The station reported that when cops arrived, they found the parents lying unconscious on the floor. The young man, Lee Johnson, was given Narcan. Soon after the overdose antidote was administered, Johnson admitted to using heroin, according to the report. He was placed in cuffs and put into the back of a police cruiser.
The station stated that the mother, Chelsie Marshall, had to be rushed to a nearby hospital to be revived. She did not come back as easily. It took a total of 14 Narcan doses to revive Marshall.
Both parents are facing charges, including:
- 2 counts of endangering children (each)
- 1 count of disorderly conduct with heroin (each)
The children were brought to the Middletown Police Department. There the heroic young boy who saved not only his parents, but his little sister and himself, received a badge for his bravery. The two children have since been taken to live with other family members.
The step-grandfather Kenneth Currey said,
“I’m very proud of the boy, very proud of him, but it’s just, tragedy,”
The Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw knows very well that this situation could have indeed brought a much different result, and issued a wake-up call to the community.
“Parents, wake up,”
“People that are doing this, you’re not just hurting you, you’re hurting your families and your kids. I mean, this could’ve turned out really bad for two children that don’t deserve it.”
He isn’t wrong.
At the same time, we should also use instances like this as an opportunity to show how important it is that people get the treatment they need, and that families support one another in getting that help before it is too late. We should give those still using the hard truth, but at the same time we should show support and compassion, while encouraging family members to protect each other and try to help those who struggle.
Addiction is killing our families every day. We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
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What the step-grandfather said is absolutely true, this is indeed a tragedy. Parents of all ages die every day from drug overdose. Every day children are suffering along with their mothers and fathers in the grips of addiction, and every day some little kids lose their parents due to addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’ll never forget when I told my mother I needed to go to rehab. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, and what broke my heart was when she asked- “What have I done that my child has to live like this?”
This is not an uncommon question, so if you find yourself asking it please do not be ashamed. It is one of the most frequently asked questions from family members and close friends when a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol. A lot of people have a tendency to internalized the struggles that those they love most experience and wonder if they had some part in creating or adding to the issue. A lot of times mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, or even sons and daughters will see the suffering their loved one goes through and ask- is it my fault my loved one is addicted?
In a word- No.
The reality of addition is that any substance use disorder is more powerful than you or them, and likewise out of your control. As hard as that is to hear, it may be the most important thing to remember in the beginning. It can’t be your fault, because it was never up to you.
Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder is just that; a disorder. The root of this issue lies in the individuals thinking, which is why many in the medical world have defined it as a kind of mental health disorder that develops over time. No one can take all the blame for someone developing a disorder like addiction, no matter how hard it is to set aside that mindset.
Of course as we experience hardships we want to find someone to blame or pinpoint a logically explanation that makes sense to us, but the truth is it isn’t that black and white. Searching for a place to put all the fault is not effective or conducive to recovering.
Now some may examine the facts and read them one way, but it isn’t a fair assessment. We can even look at the idea of addiction coming from the perfect storm of nature and nurture.
The Perfect Storm
The ‘perfect storm’ comes from a unique combination of nature and nurture that create just the right atmosphere for an addiction to develop. So many people want to say it is because of generics, while others want to say it is because of the home, upbringing or life-style. The truth is, it is both, so it can’t be the fault of either.
Every human being on this planet is born with a genetic predisposition to addiction. Different DNA designs will promote different susceptibilities to addiction, and depending on the environment the individual is consistently in they may be exposed more or less. There is no precise formula for addiction that includes it being the families fault.
This is only further proven by the fact that substance use disorder impacts all walks of life:
- Rich or poor
- The homeless
- Successful people
- People with traumatic childhoods
- People with nurturing childhoods
- Men and women
- Young or old
- Any race
- Any religion
- Every culture
So even a parent who wants to blame themselves and say, “well it was my genes passed down and I raised them in this environment, so it must be my fault,” this is still not the case. All of this connects with how we turn to different coping skills. An addicted loved one makes a choice to rely on a substance as a coping skill, and the storm stirs to the point they have launched into a full-blown substance use disorder.
Guilt and Enabling
Many family members and friends will wonder if some action they took at some point pushed their loved on to use drugs. They will wonder if an event in the relationship had such a significant impact that they drove the addiction further. People are crippled by guilt when they think they had some hand in forcing their loved one’s decision, or maybe thinking they did not do enough. This guilt is incredibly counterproductive. It is not your fault because you cannot control how anyone decides to cope.
The sad part is that some addicts will notice their loved one’s guilt, and they will manipulate their family and friends using that guilt to get what they want. Your loved one may even try to justify their behaviors by blaming you, playing on your emotions to rationalize their harmful actions.
This is just one of many symptoms of enabling, but the reason most people give for supporting their loved one’s addiction and enabling their habits is that they feel responsible for the person. People enable addicts to avoid the guilt of ‘abandoning’ them. One of the biggest hurdles that family members and close friends must overcome is letting go and accepting that they have no control of their loved one’s choices.
We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
Click for FREE GIFT
Your Own Recovery
Recovery is not just for the individual, it is also for those closest to them. Learning the difference between how to give compassion, love and support vs enabling and minimizing is very important to the addicted loved ones recovery, and also to your own peace of mind. The recovery process for the family and friends means learning more about how it isn’t you fault a relative or companion is addicted. Learning more about the science of addiction and the causes of risk behavior can also take more weight off your shoulders and help you better understand your loved one.
Even if the individual is avoiding or refusing treatment, getting help for yourself may provide you with a better understanding of how to deal with issues that arise. And the better knowledge you have, the better a position you may be in to help.
Having a family member who has suffered can be harder on you than you know. Too many people don’t know how to get the help they need for their loved ones, and too many of our loved ones suffer for too long because they are afraid of the affects that the ones they care about most will face.
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