Passed Out & Passed Down: How the Opioid Crisis is Harming the Next Generation


Part I.

We have repeatedly written about the national disaster which is the epidemic of opioid drug addiction and how it is tearing at the social fabric of this country.

The next generation stands to feel the effects of this crisis years if not decades down the road. We all will pay for the costs associated with the epidemic through higher insurance costs and increased taxpayer support for social services. But it is the children of parents who are addicted to opioids who will pay the heaviest — through emotional and educational consequences.

Here are some startling statistics:

  • Foster care populations have increased more than 30 percent in Alabama, Alaska, California, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Hampshire since 2014.
  • Overall the number of children in foster care nationwide jumped almost 7 percent to nearly 429,000, from 2013-2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The 2016 to 2018 data push that number closer to 550,000.

One can’t attribute all foster care placements to substance abuse in the home, but studies indicate that about 32 percent of foster placements are due to parental substance abuse. These are kids who often struggle socially and emotionally.

So, those are quantifiable effects of addiction in the home. How you quantify this: The impact on a child when a parent overdose in a grocery store or at home? Statistics can’t tally the trauma felt by a 9-year-old who calls 911 to get help for an unconscious parent, or the responsibility undertaken by a 10-year-old who has to feed and diaper a toddler sibling, or the impact of school absences and poor grades on a formerly successful high school student.

Long-TermEffects on Youth

For those children living with addicted parents, the effects on their development can be serious. Children in homes where parents struggle with substance abuse are more likely to experience long-term effects of neglect or abuse than other children. Previously great parents can become unavailable to kids then they are dealing with an addiction. When an addiction escalates, a parent may start to disappear from their lives altogether, neglecting them at key stages of their development. Abusive behavior can also set in, leaving the child vulnerable to physical injury as well as emotional.

Having an addicted parent is considered a type of early trauma exposure that can have serious repercussions on their mental health.

There’s a cumulative impact as these children become adults and are themselves at risk from the same influences that drove their parents to drugs, overdoses, and early deaths.

Please get help if you or someone in your family is suffering from addiction. Your kids need you. Here are three community resources that are there to help you:

First Step:

Impact Wisconsin:

Rogers Memorial Hospital:

Once you have received help from a medical professional, we encourage you to contact our offices at 414.272.3776 for a free consultation.

Our next blog in this series will focus on how law firms throughout the country are fighting to hold big Pharma accountable for opioids’ toll on those babies who are born to opioid-addicted mothers.