Children Are At Risk Of Being As Emotionally Damaged As Soldiers Returning From War

By Dr. John Rosa

You may think the title of this piece sounds ludicrous. Let me explain. Children between the ages of 6 and 17 years of age are in a state of constant neurological development. They can easily be negatively impacted by severe trauma or repetitive micro traumas. If you take into consideration the events of 2020 alone, without having a clue what is going to unfold this year, you may quickly understand.

For starters, the year began with an invisible monster in the form of the COVID-19 virus. Following that, the civil unrest and political upheaval that occurred was deeply disturbing. The west coast of the U.S. was on fire and the gulf coast was underwater. These events were enough to wreak havoc on the most solid adult, let alone children who are not equipped to understand or make sense of the world around them.

These are the kinds of unnerving events that often lead some young children into tobacco use and depressive disorders. According to an article in Clinical Pain Advisor, “Tobacco use and depression in childhood are key risk factors associated with young adult opioid use.” These behaviors lead to impaired reward system functioning and according to research, “may increase young adults’ vulnerability to opioid-associated euphoria.”

According to the study cited in the Clinical Pain Advisor article, “Opioid mortality of young adults has skyrocketed. Although prescription practices have changed, no effective solution for the current epidemic of promising preventive measures against future opioid crises is in sight.” The studies findings suggest “strong opportunities for early prevention and intervention including in primary care settings.”

With these facts in mind, it is imperative that the primary care system pays laser-focused attention to what could turn out to be a lost generation. A generation of children whose behavior is reflective of having been in a war-torn environment results in post-traumatic stress disorder and is nothing short of devastating. Let’s do everything we can to help our children.

The Early Demise Of Innocence For Generation “O”

By Dr. John Rosa

Generation O

Generation “O” is a term I coined a few years ago while researching the under-reported effects of the Opioid Crisis on our nation’s children.

The “O” stands for overdose and yes, an entire generation is being affected by this opioid crisis. The “O” can just as easily also stand for “overlooked” and “outcast.”

Every Day Events

In our so-called sophisticated, civilized country these are events that happen every single day:

90 babies are born addicted to opioids EVERY DAY.
Children witness an overdose of their parent EVERY DAY.
Children are forced to take care of themselves and siblings as parents can’t get out of bed EVERY DAY.
Children are placed into foster care due to unfit parents or being orphaned from overdose death EVERY DAY.
Grandparents are taking in grandchildren when they don’t have the health or means to care for them EVERY DAY.

Overdosed And Overlooked

An entire generation of children is being born addicted to opioids or simply living lives of untold suffering as a result of parents addicted to opioids. And this is happening in the midst of supposedly the richest, most sophisticated nation on the planet. I don’t see us as so sophisticated or wise. We have become so numb to the problems society faces and although we know such problems exist we think someone else is fixed them. This is simply not true especially as it relates to the Opioid Crisis.

Why should the children have to endure this kind of suffering? The innocent children of this nation are the helpless victims of adults who fall victim to dependency and addiction or sometimes just act irresponsible. Greed is the motivating factor. Drug companies deliver false information, distribution companies don’t report excessive purchasing from pharmacies, pharmacies don’t report doctors who excessively prescribe, drug cartels see an opportunity to flood the market with heroin and Fentanyl and the result is 150 people a day die and thousands overdose and survive. The incident child falls victim to an opioid overdose without ever taking the drug.

We Need Adults To Take Action Now

We need action, and we need it now. We need to stop the flow of opioids. We need to combat the pervasive stigma, misunderstanding and fear about substance use and abuse. We must face the ugliness if we are ever to put an end to it.

Very specifically we need action in four areas as clearly pointed out by Carol Levine and Suzanne Brundage, co-authors of The Ripple Effect, The Impact of The Opioid Crisis on Children and Families. They write, “First, we must combat the pervasive stigma, misunderstanding, and fear about substance use. Stigma prevents parents from accessing treatment and shames children from reaching out for help when they are in a tough family situation; it also perpetuates a belief that children must be removed from home when, in many cases, this can be prevented.”

“Second, the ripple effect must become a public and political priority. For too long, society has underinvested in family-centered treatment programs that support child development. We need an infusion of resources.”

“Third, we must improve communication, coordination, and collaboration among government agencies, health-care providers, and community service organizations. It shouldn’t matter which door a parent enters to seek help; every door should lead to family-centered care.”

“Finally, we need to find compassionate and meaningful ways to identify children at risk and provide them and their families with ongoing support.”

Don’t forget the children!