Children are experiencing the effects of the opioid crisis as the drug epidemic forces kids out of their homes and into foster care, according to research.
A new study found that in Florida alone, at least 2,000 children were placed into foster care due to parental neglect as the opioid epidemic began to grow between 2012 and 2015.
Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, has contributed to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths and health care costs, but this study is the first to connect the crisis to orphaned children.
Children removed from their homes due to parental neglect have a greater chance of mental and physical health problems as well as criminality, emphasizing the need to put an end to the public health emergency that killed nearly 65,000 Americans in 2016.
A graph shows the rise in painkiller prescriptions between 2012 and 2015 as it correlates to the rise in children being fostered due to parental neglect in Florida
Researchers from the University of South Florida College of Public Health analyzed data from 2012 to 2015 submitted from Florida to the federal government’s Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
They found that in 2015, roughly two out of every 1000 kids and teens were removed from their homes due to parental neglect, a 129 percent increase since 2012.
According to the Florida Drug-Related Outcomes Surveillance and Tracking System, the number of opioids prescribed during this same time period rose nine percent.
In 2012, doctors prescribed about 72 prescriptions for every 100 residents.
The findings published in Health Affairs show the rate grew to 81 prescriptions per 100 residents by 2015, averaging about 71 prescriptions during the 2012-2015 time frame.
On average, for every additional six opioid prescriptions per 100 people, the removal rate for parental neglect increased by 32 percent.
This means an estimated 2,000 children were removed from their home as the epidemic grew.
‘While the reported drop in opioid prescription rates over the last two years is encouraging, unfortunately it appears illicit opioid use has more than offset the decrease,’ said Dr Troy Quast from the University of South Florida College of Public Health.
‘We need to keep affected children in the forefront of our minds when tackling this crisis,’ he added.
The child mortality rate in the US has progressively declined in the last 50 years and most 15 to 19 years old die as a result of gun violence
Previous research has shown that children removed from their homes due to parental neglect have a greater likelihood of juvenile delinquency, teen motherhood, mental and physical health problems and adult criminality.
This study comes as new research also published today in Health Affairs reveals that the US has the highest child mortality rate out of the 19 other industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The study from Johns Hopkins Hospital found that over a 50 year period (1961-2010), childhood mortality progressively declined.
From 2001 to 2010 children between 15 and 19 years old were 82 times more likely to die from gun homicide in the US, the study showed.
Another cause of death within that age group was car accidents.
Dr Quast said: ‘Through my experience as a foster parent, I’ve seen first-hand how the foster system has been overwhelmed by children removed from homes where the parents are opioid-dependent.’
‘My goal in this study was to gain insight into the factors behind this surge,’ he added.