OPIOID ORPHANS The Drug and Opioid Crisis in the USA and Canada
Watch the video for a more complete picture of this epidemic
I always knew drugs were a big reason that children, especially babies come into foster care. It was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to help children in care. Babies affected in the womb before they take their first breath they don’t even have a chance. Or do they?
With correct intervention, these babies leave the hospital and can go on to live normal healthy lives. Either abandoned by birth mothers and adopted or apprehended into foster care with a plan to rehabilitate mom to a point it is safe for baby to return home. If not the parental rights may be taken away and the child stays in care or is adopted.
These children suffer from NAS or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, the very painful reasons it is so hard for their mothers to stop using, these poor babes have to endure.
The withdrawal is awful and babies will vary on how they withdrawal. Depending on the type of drug used, length of use, last use and average daily amount abused by their mother.
The symptoms of NAS
- Intense Shaking and Tremoring
- High pitched intense screams
- Muscle Stiffness/ Tight muscle tone
- Sleeping Problems – Many wakeful hours
- HyperActive reflexes
- Switching periods of Lethargy and extreme irritability
- Excessive Yawning Sneezing and runny nose
- Poor feeding and difficulty latching
- Fever or unstable temperature
It is one of the most heartbreaking things to watch. The infant is helpless. Babies withdrawing from opioids have a greater pain than those withdrawing from stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine/crystal meth. They tend to have many more of the symptoms and the symptoms are much more pronounced.
Doctors use a scale called the Finnigan scale to rate the newborn baby’s withdrawal. They can use morphine/methadone or Subutex to help wean the child and ease their pain from the withdrawal symptoms. Babies can stay in the hospital anywhere from a few days to 6 weeks or more. The average stay for a NAS baby is 3 weeks.
Due to the number of drug overdoses happening more and more children are being affected and becoming orphans. The foster care system is so overwhelmed. The numbers are shocking.
What is even scarier is that not all hospitals report parental drug use, and even if it is reported social services are not always deemed necessary and some of these kids slip through the cracks.
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From 2010 to 2015 one news organization identified 110 infant deaths due to parental drug use. Not all states release this info so there is, in fact, many more. The thing with this is although being exposed to drugs in the womb they survived. They were sent home from hospitals. There were no services offered whether from lack of reporting, or lack of evidence/investigation. These 110 infants died preventable deaths, most were suffocated or neglected to death due to parental drug abuse.
The statistics are not complete or the most current but here is what I can share with you from my research.
- In America, a baby is born addicted to Opioids every 19 minutes. That stat is from 3 years ago. DO you know what it is now? At least a 30% increase.
- This is the Biggest drug surge since crack cocaine use in the 1980s
Here are some statistics from the department of family services across America.
- 437 000 kids in care in 2017
- 92 000 children came into care because of drug use last year
- 32% spike in drug-related cases from 2012 to 2016
- Drug use apprehensions of children are 6 times higher in 2015 then 2000 in Indiana
- 4000 overdoses in 2016 Ohio
- 53000 Americans died last year from an overdose
Foster Care statistics in Ohio – Amount of children in care
- 2013 – 12 654
- 2017 – 15 500
- 2020 – 20000 estimated
- Kentucky 1 in 100 births baby born with NAS – Estimate 10 000 kids in foster care in the next 5 years due to the epidemic
- Oklahoma 3302 more foster care placements since 2012 (DEA PROVIDED INFO)
- Georgia 2327 more foster care placements 2012
- West Virginia Has the highest death rate from drug overdoes in the country
- West Virginia Cabell Huntington Hospital 1 out of every 5 babies born each day born exposed/addicted
- in August 2016 – 33 babies out of every 1000 born withdraw symptoms
- New Hampshire – 300% increase in the last 5 years of kids coming into care
- Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in ppl under 50
I use to think not so fondly of addicts and their choices especially when it affects children, but the more I learn the more I am just sad at an overwhelming epidemic. So many kids are growing up without their parents due to overdoes, and the inability to stop using.
Sure at one point early on in their lives, these people made horrible choices but it gets to the point they cannot survive without the drugs. The sickness they feel when they do not use is overwhelming. Even people that have the desire to stop take smaller does just to function.
The thing is a lot of these addicts are addicts because they were prescribed opioids from a doctor for pain management from a car wreck or a work-related injury. Quickly the dependency spirals out of control and when people can no longer get prescriptions they turn to the street drug heroin because it is much cheaper.
Others start because they are trying to numb a part of themselves. SOMETHING AWFUL HAPPENED TO THEM IN THEIR PAST, MAYBE AS A CHILD.
This is a vicious cycle and many addicts first used with their parents at a very young and impressionable age.
This is the next generation. Our next presidents, noble peace prize winners, teachers, doctors, social workers. The children of these addicts are who your kids will be going to school with. Becoming friends with and Experimenting at high school parties with.
Drug addiction can happen to anyone and there are factors that increase your probability of becoming addicted and abusing substances.
- A more aggressive personality. This includes academic overachievers and fight picking bullies
- Lack of parental supervision. Guess what people you are not supposed to be your Childs friend
- Parental or sibling abuse
- Sensation Seeking behaviour (thrill seekers)
- Anti-social behaviour
- Alienation from peers or family
- Academic Failure or lack of academic motivation
- Undiagnosed mental health problems
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Some people just have a genetic predisposition and in fact, it has recently been proven that if you were born exposed to drugs in utero your DNA had been genetically modified to highly increase your chances of becoming an addict.
So who’s problem is this and what can we do about it? Turning a blind eye and looking down on addicts is certainly not the solution. This is the next generation of people. Your kid’s friends. Your kids. The more prevalent it becomes in society the more it affects us as a whole. Maybe this blog post about the opioid orphan crisis made you gasp. I know when I started reading the statistics I was in shock. I hope now that you are aware you can do something to help.
Not all of us are social workers, or therapists, or addiction specialists but I do believe many of us can do one thing. Help the kids in the crisis. It doesn’t take a special person, just a willing person.
These kids are innocent it takes physically, mentally and financially stable adults stepping up and saying I can help. I can help one of these kids. Maybe I can set them up for success. Maybe I can completely change the trajectory of their lives. Maybe I can change the vicious cycle.
One of My favourite quotes is from Mother Teresa… “If you cannot feed 100 people than just feed one.”
I write all of this to hopefully encourage even one person. If you have been considering foster care, please take the next step. If you have read any of my other posts or seen any of my videos on youtube, you know how rewarding foster care has been for us. Yes it helps these kids and that is why we do it but what it has done for me as an individual is life changing. I feel my life has a major purpose. Foster Parenting changes lives. Please help.