Much attention has been placed on the use of opioids as they affect adults, but little attention has been placed on the impact of this drug addiction’s effect on children.

According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA Pediatrics), in July 2019, the number of drug-related foster care entries in the U.S. has increased since 2012, coinciding with the opioid epidemic. This study looked at nearly 5 million instances of children entering foster care between 2000 and 2017 and analyzed how many times foster children were removed from their homes due to their parents’ drug use each year. Of all the entries logged during this time period, nearly 1.2 million listed parental drug use as a primary cause.

Tragically, children taken from their parents because of their drug use are more likely to be under age 5, causing traumatic experiences for these very young children.

Teachers are also now seeing the first generations of children entering schools in kindergarten and first grade, who were born with illicit drugs in their system. The two most common drugs children are currently exposed to during their mothers’ pregnancy are buprenorphine, found in Suboxone, and methadone, used by doctors as a substitute for prescription opioid and heroin. These drugs don’t cause a high as heroin and prescription opioids do, but are prescribed because they reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms of prescription opioids. That is, doctors substituting other drugs for opioid addiction have incidentally caused children to be exposed to drugs. These drugs in children have led to a greatly increased demand for special education services due to developmental delays, lower IQs and emotional disabilities.

This is a sad commentary on the narcissism and self-indulgence of our times. Individual rights and autonomy are prioritized over obligations to others, including innocent children.