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By Scott LaNeve

October 30, 2019

While an average of 130 opioid overdose deaths occur each day1 and the United States is spending $179 billion per year2 on the opioid epidemic, often unmentioned is the impact of the crisis on America’s children.

More than 8 million children under the age of 18 live with at least one adult who has a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The majority are under the age of five, and nearly one in five are infants. Children in homes affected by SUD are typically exposed to more instability and stress than children who do not live with adults with SUD. Parents with SUD are three times more likely to physically or sexually abuse their children. As they grow older, children who experience these kinds of traumatic experiences face social, emotional, and health challenges that can lead to school failure, risky behavior, and other physical health conditions like obesity and heart disease.3,4

The number of children entering foster care due to parental drug use more than doubled from 15 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2017. Of the nearly 5 million children who entered foster care during that timeframe, 1.2 million had parental drug use as the primary cause.5

The number of children suffering neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), opioid addiction at birth, has also increased. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of mothers using opioids during pregnancy increased from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1,000 births.6 Every 25 minutes a child is born with NAS. Babies with NAS experience lower birthweights, respiratory conditions feeding difficulties, seizures and longer hospital stays.4

To reduce the opioid epidemic’s impact on children, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls for family-centered policies that prioritize prevention and treatment while keeping families together. The organization says that giving healthcare providers tools to recognize, treat, and support parents and their children will lessen the trauma of SUD and its lifelong consequences.4

One of those tools, hc1 Opioid Advisor®, helps prioritize prevention and treatment by detecting opioid misuse early and supporting clinical decision making.  Visit for more information about Opioid Advisor and request a demo. To learn more about the opioid epidemic’s impact on children, see the fact sheets the AAP has created showing the opioid epidemic’s impact on each individual state, as well as the United States as a whole.


  1. (29 Dec 2018). Opioid Overdose: Understanding the epidemic.
  2. Dimmons-Duffin, S. (24 Oct 2019). The real cost of the opioid epidemic: an estimated $179 billion in just 1 year. NPR.
  3. A. (9 Jan 2018). The Opioid Epidemic: Impact on Children and Families. Journal of Psychiatry and Psychiatric Disorders.
  4. America’s Opioid Crisis: The Unseen Impact on Children.
  5. Neilson, S. (15 July 2019). More Kids Are Getting Placed In Foster Care Because Of Parents’ Drug Use. NPR.
  6. March of Dimes. (2019). Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.


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