Opioid Orphans

It is so sad that medications meant to relieve serious pain have become such a travesty that people who might benefit from them find it hard to receive a prescription.  I understand the complication.  I have been prescribed such medications and though I never became addicted, I could see the temptation and how the drug fixes itself upon the person.

I have experienced the awareness that my ex-husband overdosed and gratefully survived the experience.  When he came home he told me his friend dumped him out at the emergency room.  Not long after, that friend actually died of an overdose himself.  His family lived next door to my in-laws and they quite obviously, and reasonably, distanced themselves from my ex at the time – though he was not at all responsible for his friend’s death.  Parents have a hard time accepting such a hard truth at the time they lose their child.

Today, many grandparents will be forced to rescue their grandchildren after such an event.  Fortunately, the death I described above was a person without children.  Though perhaps a few years away from retirement, they find themselves full-time parents again.  This is the collateral damage caused by the opioid crisis.

As the opioid epidemic has spread across the country, through all age, gender, race and economic categories, the number of children who have lost their parents to drugs—either to death by overdose, to jail, prison, homelessness or disability—has skyrocketed. Those children wind up in one of two places: either with relatives, or in an already overburdened foster care system.  In 2015, the child welfare system saw a three-year national increase of more than 30,000 children entering foster care.  That number is likely much higher now as the nation finally begins to face the truth and pharmaceutical companies are being held to account.

In West Virginia, the hardest hit state in the opioid crisis, the number of foster care children grew 24 percent from 2012-2016.  The numbers escalate as the number of overdoses increase; they mirror the number of addicts in treatment programs, incarceration or living day-to-day on the streets. Babies are born addicted to opioids or other drugs.  More often than not, addict parents, living or deceased, have made little or no provisions for the ongoing care of their children.