There is an opioid epidemic in the United States. The amount of prescription opioids sold—like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone—and the number of people who have died due to overdose has nearly quadrupled since 1999.
Reports show that in 2015, over 2.5 million people abused or were dependent on opioids (including prescriptions and heroin). 33,000 people died from an overdose that year. This accounted for 63 percent of all drug overdose deaths. 91 people a day die from opioid overdose.
According to the Kasier Family Foundation, overdose death varies greatly by state. In 2015, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia had the highest rates of overdose (23 per 1,000 people). The District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi and New Hampshire had the largest increase in death rates (34 percent or more) between 2014 and 2015.
This epidemic is not only affecting parents, but children as well. At least 2 million children each year have a parent who uses illicit drugs, including opioids. It affects many children even before they are born. Between 2007 and 2012 an estimated 21,000 pregnant women annually abused opioids during their pregnancy.
Opioid abuse by parents obviously puts their children’s health and safety at risk. Infants with mothers who used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to have physical, behavioral and cognitive problems. Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a post-birth withdrawal syndrome caused by prenatal exposure to opioids and causes tremors, excessive crying, poor feeding and rapid breathing. NAS increased by 300 percent between 1999 and 2013. Opioid abuse also results in ineffective and inconsistent parenting leading to inadequate nutrition, supervision and nurturing.
It has also increased the number of children entering foster care. Parents abusing opioids are more likely to abuse and neglect their children, which results in them being placed in foster care. In 2005, 22 percent of children who entered foster care did so because of parental drug abuse…in 2015 it had risen to 32 percent.
This addiction affects children and families from all walks of life. There may be parents in your ministry struggling with this. They go to work, church, their kid’s sports game and may even seem like the perfect parents—until they get caught trying to fill a fraudulent prescription. The longer someone is actively struggling with an addiction to painkillers, the more signs there will be. Some of the most common signs are drowsiness, lack of hygiene, frequent flu-like symptoms, weigh loss and changes in energy level.
It’s important that we are prepared to point them to sources of professional help and hold them up in prayer.
This article originally appeared here.