A recent study has revealed that opioid use may interfere with one’s parenting instinct, which may explain why opioid addicts are sometimes observed to be pursuing their fix with their kids in tow. New research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania opens a window in the mind of an addicted parent.
Researchers scanned 47 people’s brains before and after they took part in an addiction recovery program for opioid abuse. While they were in the scanner, they were shown a plethora of pictures of babies, allowing researchers to observe the response that occurred in their brain. The researchers also had 25 healthy people undergo the same process.
However, those who took part in the study were not informed that the baby pictures may have been slightly doctored in order to make them “more” or “less” cute. For the “more” cute pictures, the pictures were manipulated to emphasize traditionally “cute” characteristics: larger eyes, chubbier cheeks, and so on. Conversely, the “less” cute pictures were manipulated so that the eyes were smaller and the cheeks less chubby. According to other research, the babies with emphasized features are more likely to activate a part of the brain known as the “ventral striatum,” part of the brain’s reward pathway.
Those subjects who were struggling with opioid dependence did not have as much brain activity when presented with the “cute” baby pictures as the healthy people did. But once the subjects struggling with opioid dependence were given naltrexone, an opioid blocker, researchers found they produced a more normal response.
Although the sample size for the study was small, researchers believe the information learned could provide valuable insight into an addict’s parenting ability. The research comes as opioid dependency is reaching epidemic heights, resulting in shocking images of opioid abusing parents and the children who must cope with their parents addiction. However, scientists are careful to point out that the new evidence is only one piece of the picture when it comes to addiction.
In 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that roughly 9 million children lived with a parent who had abused drugs or alcohol in the previous year. Perhaps somehow even more disturbing, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System reports that in 2014, nearly 30 states reported that almost 20% of child fatalities arose from a situation that involved intoxicated parents.
Researchers stressed the fact that addiction can be extremely difficult to overcome, and may be impossible with the help of a qualified addiction recovery program. As such, they stated that parents struggling with addiction need all the help they can get. Fortunately, while the United States is facing an epidemic of addiction, it is fortunate that it comes when we have recognized addiction as a disease that must be appropriately treated in a substance abuse treatment facility.
If you’re struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you deserve the tools that can help you overcome your addiction and being working toward recovery. If you’re ready to begin your treatment, contact Addiction Now and begin the process now. The Addiction Now network of drug rehab centers has a facility that is a perfect match for your needs — get in touch and let us help you find it!