Many areas throughout the country have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of children who are being raised in homes where heroin abuse is taking place. State governments are charged with investigating and ultimately finding safer places for children whose mothers and fathers are addicted to the dangerous drug.
Some infants are born opiate-dependent because of their mother’s drug use and have to go through withdrawal, while other children see their parents become addicted later in life. Either way, addiction to heroin and other drugs make people less able to care for their children properly, and often endangers them through severe neglect.
While many states are feeling the increase of heroin addiction and the children affected by the drug, Vermont recently conducted a study to see just how many children were growing up in households with heroin abuse. Researchers found that there has been a 62% increase in child abuse and neglect cases since 2010. For instance, in 2002 there were 12 reports of babies born with heroin addictions in one Vermont hospital. By 2012, that number had grown to 136. The massive increase in heroin-afflicted families there has put a strain on the government and the social services. According to the Vermont Department for Children and Families, 70% of the cases that are worked on involving a child under the age of three are due to some sort of heroin abuse.
“Opiate addiction is becoming one of the primary mechanisms through which kids are mistreated and neglected. A lot of these kids are not getting the parental care they need and deserve. Some are abused and some are exposed to situations they should not be in,” explained Dr. David Rettew, director of the Pediatric Psychiatric Clinic at UVM’s Medical Center.
These scenes are being echoed in several states across our nation, and there are tens of thousands of children who are being displaced. The best outcome for these scenarios is that the addicted parents wind up completing successful treatment programs to get control over their own lives so that they can then regain custody and properly care for their children.
Programs all over the United States are beginning to focus on parents when it comes to preventing teen drug use. Oftentimes the families are so blindsided by their loved one’s drug addiction that it can be difficult to figure out the right steps to take when addressing the problem. As people become more educated on drugs and addiction, it is also clear that parents and family members play a major role in preventing drug abuse and getting addicts the help they need.
Operation Save Teens is a group that was started in Alabama to educate people on the dangers of drug abuse and what to do if a family member begins abusing drugs. There are several of these types of groups throughout the country. Grassroots movements that were born out of the tragedy of losing a loved one to drugs, oftentimes these loved ones were teenagers.
“We do these programs to enlighten the parents and to give them the signs to look for, but also to show the kids, too. We have to get to the kids before they get addicted to something. It’s very hard to get people unaddicted. These treatment centers are very expensive, and most of the time, it takes long-term care and commitment,” explained Lt. Mike Reese of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Teenagers have been targeted as more susceptible for drug use and abuse because of the many different pressures they are under. Insecurities surrounding looks, education and their future can combine to make them reach for the numbing effects of drugs. Synthetic drugs can also be more appealing to teenagers because they are often easier to obtain and newer to the market. Because of their newness, many teenagers are not aware of the extreme dangers synthetic drugs pose to users, such as hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and paranoid behavior.
There are hundreds of different educational groups around the country working hard to educate families and children on the dangers and signs of drug abuse. For people who do become addicted and need treatment, we’re here to help.
One of the scariest and most confusing things about being a parent may be having to address potential substance abuse and the peer pressure that children may feel to experiment with drugs. Many experts agree that children need direct, honest dialogue when it comes to talks about drugs in order to really get them to understand why they should not engage in that type of risky behavior.
During middle school and high school, some parents may start to realize that they have less influence over their children than ever before, as their friends, idols and pop culture becomes more of a factor in their decisions. In order to avoid being ignored when it comes to a dialogue about the dangers of drug abuse, honesty is definitely the best policy. Young people tend to ignore threats of punishment and even rebel, but if they truly understand that what different substances do to them and how they can ruin their lives, there is generally a greater chance that the advice to abstain is heeded.
Providing a forum where teens can ask any questions they may have regarding drug use is essential in helping to break down the mystery or allure about drugs. These forums can be in smaller settings at schools, churches and other community groups where the topics can be openly discussed. Heroin has been one of the biggest topics of late.
“What I see in schools is teens want an honest conversation about the drug. They are becoming adults. They have questions and in different households there is not that ability to ask those types of questions,” explained Renee Smith, an addiction prevention expert who works with many adolescents.
In today’s society, where young people are bombarded with messages that promote irresponsible behavior such as substance abuse, they need all the help they can get to help combat those negative influences.
As the drug problem in the country continues, it is clear that addiction does not discriminate. One cannot judge a person based on their position in society, education or family history. Unfortunately, many children across the United States have grown up living with an addict as a parent. The effect this can have on a child can be devastating for some.
According to recent reports, 12 percent of children in the United States are currently living with someone who is addicted to drugs. This means that there are over 8.3 million children who are surrounded with the destruction that comes along with a substance abuse problem. As if this statistic was not bad enough, the odds that a child of an addict becomes an addict themselves are greatly increased. Perhaps seeing person that they love so much succumb to an addiction makes it ok for the child to do the same, or perhaps these children have given up on living any other sort of life, or maybe they are trying to be like their parents and it is purely a learned behavior. For whatever reason, the addiction problems and related behaviors continue on through many of these children.
Several years ago a study was conducted to assess the damage created in children who have gone through traumatic or threatening life experiences. The study was called the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. The study showed that almost 27 percent of children who fell into the category of an adverse childhood had someone close to them addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The study further concluded that these children had an increased likelihood to become addicts themselves, acquire a sexually transmitted disease, become obese and have other health problems like heart disease, liver problems, and chronic lung problems.
Addiction is a selfish behavior, and when an addict has children they often suffer tremendously for a long time to come. Many times when people are approached about going to treatment, they do agree to go in order to try and be better parents. When substance abusers fail to protect their children, then society often intervenes and removes the kids from the unhealthy environment, when the far better scenario in most cases is to ensure the parents get the treatment they desperately need.
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