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Substance abuse is a significant public health concern in the U.S., irrespective of the age or social stature of people. Unfortunately, millions of children in American households live with parents or caregivers who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, or are involved in the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of illicit substances. Kids growing up in such homes where substance abuse is highly prevalent are likely to misuse alcohol and drugs themselves, which can lead to multigenerational cycles of abuse. Not only does parental substance abuse expose these kids to the detrimental effects of alcohol and drugs, it also jeopardizes their basic emotional, psychological, and physical needs stemming from parental neglect.
Additionally, the environment at home may be unsafe or insanitary for the kids because of the presence of chemicals, illegal drugs, and paraphernalia. These conditions can contribute to poor health outcomes in children, educational delays, insufficient medical and dental care, child maltreatment, and even the death of the child.
One recourse to prevent this is shifting children whose parents abuse substances to foster care. According to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the number of children entering foster care has increased significantly because of parental use of opioids. According to the authors, the number of children entering foster care has gone up by 147 percent from 2000 to 2017, due to parental drug use.
Dramatic increase in foster care entries in last five years
The authors referred to the nationwide Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System for foster care entries. They did not count the number of children as some children could have been added multiple times in the database, according to the authors. Further, they noted that this increase in the foster care entries pertaining to parental substance use skyrocketed from 2012-2017, when the country witnessed an upsurge in the use and overdoses related to opioids. Lead author Angelica Meinhofer, instructor of health care policy and research at Weill Cornell Medical College, shared that there is a dearth of data associating the effects of the opioid epidemic with the affected children. However, their study strives to quantify parental drug use and the increase in the number of children entering foster care due to this.
To demonstrate this, the researchers investigated 5 million entries at foster cares to study factors like geographical area, demographics, caretaker or parental drug use, and reasons for removal from home. In a duration of 17 years, 23 percent of all the recorded entries, corresponding to 1 million, accounted for foster care. The home removals pertaining to drug use of parents increased dramatically, from 15 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2017. The researchers also found that compared to kids who were removed from home for reasons other than parental drug use, the ones who were removed for this reason were more likely to be younger than 5 years, white, and residing in the Southern parts of the country.
Limitations of study
The present study had several limitations. It did not focus on any particular type of substance so it was hard to link the results to any specific drugs, like opioids. In addition, the researchers reported that there was a rapid increase in parental drug use, however, they didn’t investigate the causes behind it. Therefore, it is imperative that follow-up studies are directed at exploring this rise in drug use so that appropriate support can be instituted for children of addicted parents. Also, the data collected in the research may not be very accurate, well-funded or thorough. Finally, the researchers could collect data only till 2017.
It is critical that extensive research is carried out to study this trend further. It is important that parents of these children are studied to observe why they abused drug, which drugs they abused, what caused them to get addicted, and more. And in the long run, it would be helpful to direct these parents for support and recovery.
Seeking treatment for drug use
Substance abuse causes sweeping changes in the brain, leading to incontrollable drug-seeking behaviors. When habitual users stop ingesting their drug of choice, they start experiencing dangerous withdrawal symptoms that may threaten their lives or cause serious brain impairment. Under such circumstances, a detox treatment in a medically supervised environment at a reliable substance abuse treatment center is the first step towards recovery and starting life anew.
At Hillside Mission’s substance abuse treatment center, we provide detox treatment services at our state-of-the-art treatment centers for substance abuse disorder. For more information about substance-related disorders and the corresponding treatments offered, get in touch with our admission specialist by calling our 24/7 detox treatment helpline 866-225-6101. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.