Study Highlights Racial Disparities in Children Losing Parents to Overdose

Children Losing Parents to Overdose
Children Losing Parents to Overdose. Credit | Getty images

United States – The study, published May 8 in JAMA Psychiatry, showed an overdose death in the U.S. of the parent was experienced by more than 320,000 children over the past decade.

Rising Mortality Rates

The mortality rate was also faster during this period, having more than doubled from 2011 to 2021, according to the scientists’ findings, as reported by HealthDay.

In 2011, the rate of those whose parent had died from an overdose was about 27 per 100,000, around 27 in every 100,000. In another ten years, 63 children lost a parent to the cause of lethal drug use in comparison with those 63 children preceding the results.

“This first-of-its-kind study allows us to better understand the tragic magnitude of the overdose crisis and the reverberations it has among children and families,” Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, administrator of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said in a news release.

In addition, a nationwide death records study found that 618,000 people between the ages of 18 and 64 succumbed to a drug overdose between 2011 and 2021.

Of this number, some 321,566 battled as single parents following the drug use surveys.

Looking Ahead

“It is heartbreaking to note that almost half of the individuals who died of a drug overdose is a parent him or herself,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release. “No family should suffer the death of their relative due to a drug overdose, each of these deaths being a preventable loss from the family.”

In addition, another study appeared recently presenting the threefold increase in gun violence and drug OD deaths among parents over the past 20 years, which translates to the loss of about 100,000 children in 2020. The study was published May 4 in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA).

The fresh findings showed that, in general, fathers outnumbered mothers—192,500 children were left without fathers, while only 129,000 were left without mothers.

The majority of OD deaths were recorded among parents aged from 26 to 40 and left 175,000+ children following their passing, as well as the white parents, who left behind 234,000+ children.

The number of Hispanic parents ODing reached 40,000, as did 35,700 of the Black people dying due to drug-related deaths.

Demographic Impact

Children with parents of American Indian/Alaska Native descent were hit hardest overall, getting the highest rate of 187 children per 100,000 that were lost to an overdose death in the year 2021.

White children lost their lives about 76 per every 100,000 births, and Black children 73 per 100,000.

This analysis emphasizes the necessity for drug therapies to treat addicts as parents or relatives, along with the resources for them to survive and help break the chains of addiction over the next generations, as reported by HealthDay.

Call for Action

“Children who lose a parent to overdose not only feel personal grief but also may experience ripple effects, such as further family instability,” Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a news release. “We need to ensure that families have the resources and support to prevent an overdose from happening in the first place and manage such a traumatic event.”