Who will care for the children left behind?

Parents with drug addictions are the First cause

More than 20 years after the introduction of OxyContin — and nearly 400,000 opioid overdose deaths later — a generation is growing up amid the throes of a historic epidemic. Generation in which the children whose families are trapped in a relentless grip of addiction, rehab, prison and death. “We don’t live in a third world country, but some of these kids are living in third world conditions,”

What it’s like to grow up amid the opioid crisis

The children whose families are trapped in a relentless cycle of addiction, described chaotic home lives rife with neglect and abuse. They recounted begging their parents — who more often spent money on the next fix than on food — to stop using drugs. And they described finding relatives unconscious or frothing at the mouth after overdosing.

Educators said they have seen a surge in the number of children born addicted to opioids or suffering from neglect, many with severe learning disabilities, some barely able to speak others are sex trafficked for the price of drugs. Teachers told of tantrums, at times violent, and of chairs thrown in classrooms.Children born into such families are at increased risk for substance use disorders later in life.

How important schools are for these children

In a nation where more than 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose — and in many regions where the impact of addiction has taken a severe emotional toll on children — school is for many students a refuge; a place where they attend classes, but also have access to hot meals, hot showers and donated clean clothes. On Fridays, educators said, students can take home backpacks full of food so they won’t go hungry over the weekend.

Still, school is only a temporary respite.

Educators said that students growing up in families affected by addiction tended to linger on campus until the doors were locked at night, reluctant to go home. Some had returned the next morning and casually mentioned that a parent had died or overdosed the prior evening. And law enforcement officials described instances of children who were sexually assaulted, tied up or found sleeping on cardboard in houses littered with needles and dog feces.

Ground zero for opioids

Long considered ground zero in the Opioid epidemic is Scioto County, nearly 9.7 million pills were prescribed in 2010 — enough to give 123 pills to each resident, according to official statistics. Over the years, as opioid prescriptions have fallen, many drug users have moved on to heroin and fentanyl.

Many of our children no longer want to live and law enforcement officials described instances of children who were sexually assaulted, tied up or found sleeping on cardboard in houses littered with needles and dog feces.

Can more be done? Yes. But who will care for all these children who are left behind?

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