Amarah's Corner: Prevention of Opioid Addiction, Part 1

“Kids Like Me”

Hi! My name is Amarah. Kids are important to Jesus, and they’re important to me, too.

Kids like me are kids and adults of all ages whose parents are, or were, drug addicts and alcoholics, kids who have suffered, or who are suffering, abuse and neglect on multiple levels, and kids who are victims of bullying.

Today (and next week), my friend and president/chair of my non-profit, Dr. Barbara Troy, talks about prevention of opioid addiction:

Prevention of Opioid Addiction, Part 1

Where do we begin? Prevention begins in the crib. Babies need love, attention, attachment and attunement. Infants are born with the possibility of all emotions and behaviors that are normal. Infants need to feel safe and nurtured in their environment. A young human being can begin to shut down parts of themselves if their environment is not supportive. It can be difficult or impossible for them to recognize or accept love if they have not received love, compassion or joy.

We need social recognition that there is nothing more important than the children; the development of children emotionally, physically, and nutritionally must be of the highest priority. There needs to be early prenatal care not only for blood tests, physical exams, and nutritional advice, but also a stress inventory of the woman’s life. Addiction is tragic but nothing is irrevocably dictated by our genes and that brings us to the understanding that there is much to do in prevention.

Governments, employers, and communities need to understand and appreciate the gestational and early years of infant development. Neuroscientists have many studies that show the brain is 90 percent developed by age three. Prevention programs and policies need to be written to provide a cost-effective approach that is psychologically, culturally, and economically supportive. United States psychiatrists say, “Simply stated, children reflect the world in which they live.”

Children who are brought up in stable communities and who are emotionally nurtured do not need to become addicts. The stabilizing process begins at birth and needs to continue into daycare, primary and secondary education. Remember, an infant becomes a teenager and then becomes an adult. Let us begin preventing addiction by providing positive emotional feedback. Let’s reduce the stress of growing up.

In pregnancy, all possible resources should be brought forward to help the pregnant mother with emotional, physical and economic stress. Babies do better if the mother has less stress (whatever happens to the pregnant mother happens to the baby). They need housing, food and stability. They need legal support. Jail is not a healthy environment or a safe environment for a pregnant woman. She needs medical care that can provide compassion, non-judgmental actions and thoughts, and the understanding that patients of addiction most likely have had traumatic childhood histories. The goal is not to re-traumatize the pregnant mother but to help her deliver a healthy infant.

The long-term effect of parental mood on the biology of the child’s brain is illustrated by several studies showing that concentrations of the stress hormone, cortisol, are elevated in the children of clinically depressed mothers. Studies show that the greatest effect of parental mood on the child is during the first year of life. Dr. Rhawn Joseph, scientist, at the Brain Research Laboratory in San Jose, Calif., Indicates that the brain governs mood, emotional self-control, and social behavior. We can expect then that the neurological consequences of adverse experience will lead to deficits in the personal and social lives of people who suffer them in childhood. He further states that there is, “a reduced ability to anticipate consequences or to inhibit irrelevant or in appropriate, self-destructive behaviors.”

Dr. Gabor Mate discusses the idea that the environment shapes brain development as a very straightforward one, even if the details are immeasurably complex. Think of a kernel of wheat. No matter how genetically-sound a seed may be, factors such as sunlight, soil quality and irrigation must act on it properly if it is to germinate and grow into a healthy adult plant. Two identical seeds, cultivated under opposing conditions, would yield two different plants: one tall, robust, and fertile; the other stunted, wilted and unproductive.

Pregnant women who are addicts have the potential to transform. They love their baby but need encouragement and support to care for themselves and their baby. They can become productive people and can offer important ideas to our communities. This is not a quick process, but it is an important process to begin to change the course of addiction. Begin now with new programs and policies to help prevent our newborns from future addictions and to help make their environment safe and nurturing for them to grown into healthy adults. 

Part 2 next week.

Thank You, so much, Dr. Troy! I Love You!!

Remember, Jesus Loves You, and JESUS IS LORD!