Families Often Ripped Apart as Drug Use Escalates

By Chris Adams

While physicians in emergency rooms see first-hand the impact of the nation’s opioid epidemic on drug users, pediatricians see the collateral damage in the traumatized lives of their children and families.

In a session with journalists at a National Press Foundation program, Dr. Karen Remley, CEO and executive vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, documented the use of opioids among young people and the effect on them when their parents use the drugs.

“This can happen to any family, anywhere,” she said.

In addition, she charted the prevalence of opioid abuse or dependence during pregnancy. While the rate among older women has held relatively steady over time (the set of numbers are from 1998 and 2011), it more than doubled among pregnant women under 35.

Once children come into the world, they’re often exposed to ACEs – “adverse childhood experiences” such as divorce, substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, homelessness, domestic violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

A third of children nationwide have none of those ACEs in their backgrounds, but 26 percent have one, 16 percent have two, 10 percent have three, and 13 percent have four or more.

As the number of ACEs goes up, the risk of illegal drug use does as well.

“How we help support those children to bring down those risks is very important,” she said.

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