The Opioid Epidimic Is Hurting Children

The following information has been taken from “5 Things to Know about the Opioid Epidemic and Its Effect on Children” by Child Trends (

Opioids are highly addictive drugs, available in illegal forms like heroin, or legal ones like oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine, which are available through a prescription. A drastic increase in the abuse of prescription opioids has gained national attention on multiple fronts, and for good reason. This is what you need to know about the epidemic and how it affects children.

  •  Opioid abuse has increased significantly over the last 20 years.

Both the amount of prescription opioids sold and the number of people who died due to a prescription opioid overdose have nearly quadrupled in the United States since 1999. In 2015, more than 2.5 million people abused or were dependent on opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin). 33,000 people died from an overdose from opioids that year, accounting for 63% of all drug overdose deaths.

  • At least 2 million children annually have a parent who uses illicit drugs, including opioids.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2007 to 2012 an estimated 21,000 pregnant women (ages 15 to 44) annually misused opioids during the month prior to being surveyed. The survey also found that each year between 2002 and 2007, an estimated 2.1 million children under 18 lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused illicit drugs within the year prior to taking the survey (there is no specific estimate for opioid use).

  • Opioid abuse by parents puts children’s health and safety at risk.

Infants with mothers who used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to have a range of physical, behavioral and cognitive problems. Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a post-birth withdrawal syndrome caused primarily by prenatal exposure to opioids; it is characterized by tremors, excessive crying, poor feeding, and rapid breathing. Substance abuse can also result in ineffective or inconsistent parenting, leading to children’s basic needs–such as adequate nutrition, supervision, and nurturing–going unmet.

  • The number of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse is rising.


Children of parents with substance use issues are more likely than their peers to experience abuse and neglect, to be referred to the child welfare system, and to be placed in foster care (overall and for longer periods of time). Parental drug abuse is the second-most-common reason for foster care entry, and it is on the rise. In 2005, 22% of children who entered foster care did so at least partially because of parental drug abuse; in 2015 that number was 32%, according to Child Trends’ analysis of 2015 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System data. Neglect–the most common reason for foster care entry–is intertwined with substance use, and has also increased in recent years.

Parents, your actions affect your children – stay drug free!

Talk to your teens.  They will listen! 

Post a comment