Every day, nearly 130 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose. The opioid crisis costs Americans over $78 billion every year – and it’s safe to say that millions, even those who aren’t directly abusing opioids, are affected. Unfortunately, children all over the country have become severely affected by the opioid epidemic as their parents have struggled to overcome opioid addiction, leaving them without proper supervision and support. In many cases, family members have been stepping up to help out – but how is this affecting the children? Additionally, how is this affecting family dynamics?
The Opioid Epidemic: What’s Currently Happening
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that between 8 to 12 percent of patients develop an opioid use disorder (OUD), and more than 258,000 children are in the foster care system due to alcohol or drug abuse by parents. Earlier this year, People Magazine covered the effect that the opioid epidemic has had on families – and grandparents are starting to step up and help out their grandchildren when no one else can. Donna Butts, Executive Director of a family advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., stated,
“Grandparents provide this protective web of love and roots and hope.”
About 1 in 3 children are now living with a grandparent due to the opioid epidemic, and families are having to pull together now more than ever before to save their children. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained,
“The adult workforce that would-be fathers, parents, taxpayers—the actual backbone of those communities 10 or 20 years from now—a staggering proportion of them are dying.”
U.S. News covered several families who are now dealing with the aftermath of the opioid epidemic, and it’s been clear that it places a major strain on everyone involved. Even those working in case management have found it to be a debilitating experience – and because of that, this field experiences a lot of turnover.
How Children Are Affected
Children who enter into foster care due to parental opioid addiction are more likely to experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. Many children struggle with substance abuse themselves, either as a way to escape or due to lack of parental supervision; and it’s not uncommon for these children to “act out” because they feel lost. Unfortunately, children can become at higher risk for developing their own addictions over time – and between foster care and ever-changing family dynamics, child abuse is at an increased risk as well.
It’s incredibly heartbreaking to hear that these children are missing out on being raised by their parents, but thankfully more actions have been set in place to try and help mitigate the effects of the opioid epidemic and to help educate communities so that more parents can seek help.
What’s Being Done
The Fix, a website that publishes information related to addiction, recovery and mental health, noted that a recent new bill has been passed to provide more resources to grandparents who are otherwise living below the poverty line while attempting to care for grandchildren. Senator Collins said:
“The Help Grandfamilies Prevent Child Abuse Act would provide grandparents access to important resources they need to help their grandchildren succeed.”
Furthermore, the NIDA highlights several other governmental efforts that are being made to improve communities, such as:
- Improving access to treatment
- Promoting overdose-reducing drugs
- Better public surveillance to gain deeper insights on the epidemic
- Enhanced support for cutting-edge research
- Advanced practices for pain management, including through the use of holistic care
At Cumberland Heights, those in addiction recovery can work towards getting their life – and their children – back by healing their mind, body and spirit. Addiction isn’t just a physical disease, it’s a mental and spiritual one; many parents who struggle with opioid addiction do so because they feel too much pain, too much loss and an overall lack of purpose in the world. At Cumberland Heights, spirituality is a major component that is addressed through individual and group therapy, 12-Step programs, and non-denominational sermons.
Restoring Health and Gaining Back Family
The nature of addiction is a gut-wrenching, grueling, powerful pull that makes it harder than ever to get out of. The most transformation comes when an individual is submerged in a recovering environment – filled with love and care to support their journey to wellness. While addiction may be an underlying factor for all recovery clients at Cumberland Heights, there are some major differences – including each person’s past with substance abuse, family history, medical history, social support and more. Due to these important variations, Cumberland Heights strives to create individualized treatment plans while also staying focused on the spiritual implications of recovery through 12-Step program initiatives.
If you’re ready to get your life back and start the transformational process towards healing, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.