Impact of Parental Opioid Abuse on Children

Those golden years of childhood of endless talking, hanging out with friends, playing games, eating sumptuous meals cooked at home and a carefree existence are hard to forget. But not many children in the United States today, can enjoy the bounties of life. Their happiness and lives are marred by the addiction-related problems of their parents. And in case, both the parents are addicted, the situation can be worse.

The opioid epidemic has reached epic proportions and children are severely impacted by it. Opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and heroin are some of the widely abused drugs in America. Millions of prescription opioids are prescribed each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults aged 40 or older and women are more likely to use prescription opioids. The widespread misuse of opioids by parents can leave the children traumatized, leading to developmental difficulties, impaired cognitive abilities, behavioral shortcomings and painful memories. Many a times, children end up in foster homes when a parent dies of an overdose or is unfit to take care of the offspring.

Some of the perils of parental opioid abuse are as follows:

Birth complications: Mothers who continue misusing opioids during pregnancy have an increased risk of delivering opioid-dependent babies. The young victims may suffer from low birthweight and respiratory complications. It can lead to a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a group of problems, in the baby. There’s also a high risk of placental abruption, preterm labor and fetal death.

Foster care: Parental drug abuse endangers the overall well-being of children. As the parent is no longer able to take care of the child or dies due to accidental overdose, the kids are placed in foster care. It is a well-known fact that children who live with their parents have better social skills and are prepared to face life stressors. While some children are lucky and find caring adoptive parents, many suffer in the impersonalized foster care setting. Over time, they too can fall prey to drugs or alcohol.

If the child continues to live with the addicted parent, the child’s basic needs of food, love, emotional support and respectable living would remain unmet as a result of which, he or she may exhibit stunted growth.

Increased risk of addiction: Whether it is alcohol, heroin, cocaine or common prescription drugs, children living with an adult abusing drugs are more likely to fall into the same pattern of abuse themselves. They could begin by experimenting with their parents’ pills. Parents and grandparents should be extremely cautious regarding drug storage. Accidental ingestion of prescription drugs by toddlers and adolescents can lead to a case of overdose. Children are immediately attracted to anything that is shiny and colorful, including pills and bottles. It is recommended that adults take care of following points at home to keep children away from opioids:

  • Keeping medications in a cabinet beyond the reach of children
  • Keeping cabinet locked at all times
  • Disposing of unused or expired prescription medications

Road to recoveryChildren are extremely vulnerable to changes at home and in their environment. Since their brains are developing during the growing up years, they may not differentiate between right and wrong. During this period, parents play a critical role by providing love and care as well as unrelenting support. A cordial parent-child relationship can help the child navigate through difficult phases smoothly. Children often look up to parents as role models therefore, it is important for adults to stay away from drugs and live a healthy and happy life with their children.

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