Meet a tough judge who takes a tender approach with drug-addicted moms (Megyn Kelly Today)

Read our roundup of the latest opioid-related news, including developments in treatment and the effect on children and families. You can find the full archive at the bottom of this page.


If you are unable to locate information on a topic or have information to share, please let us know.

Opioids and the Courts

Widespread use of opioids has had a devastating impact on many U.S. communities. This impact is evident on court dockets across the country on a daily basis. Courts must play an active role in providing solutions to this deadly epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an opioid is a natural or synthetic chemical that interacts with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain and reduces the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. This class of drugs includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and pain medications available legally by prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and many others. Opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016, and opioid overdose deaths were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.


The map below displays state overdose death rates in 2016 as reported to the CDCAdditional data from the CDC indicates that the types of opioids used are also changing in even more dangerous ways. Overdose deaths involving powerful opioids such as fentanyl continue to increase.

Number and Age-Adjusted Rates of Drug Overdose Deaths by State, 2016

CDC's number and age-adjusted rates of drug overdose deaths by state, 2016

The impact of the opioid epidemic touches every aspect of public safety and the judicial system. In a recent survey of chief justices and state court administrators, 55 percent of respondents indicated that the opioid epidemic's impact on the courts in their states is severe. Drug-related arrests involving opioids are skyrocketing. In many communities, court dockets and probation caseloads are filled with individuals with opioid-use disorders. 

In addition to the impact of opioid abuse on the criminal courts, the nation’s family courts and child welfare system have been deeply affected. A recent report by the Administration for Children and Families shows that, after years of decline, the number of children in foster care is rising. From 2012 to 2016, the percentage of removals nationally due to parental substance abuse increased 13 percent to 32.2 percent. 

The following are collected resources available on various aspects of the opioid epidemic including child welfare, medication assisted treatment, reports and recommendations from national organizations, news articles, press reports and a reading list.

The child welfare system has been greatly impacted by the opioid epidemic. Prenatal and postpartum drug use has increased the number of babies born addicted to opioids and children placed in foster care due to opioid-addicted parents have put a great strain on the child welfare system in many areas of the country. This section offers information on neonatal abstinence syndrome, the treatment of pregnant women, children of addicted parents and impacts on foster care. The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare also includes a broad range of information related to these and other similar topics. 

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare)

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Fact Sheet (National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors)

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: How States Can Help Advance the Knowledge Base for Primary Prevention and Best Practices of Care (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials)

How State Health Departments Can Use the Spectrum of Prevention to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials)

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: Treatment and Pediatric Outcomes (Beth A. Logan, M.A., Mark S. Brown, M.D., and Marie J. Hayes, Ph.D.)

Prenatal Drug Use and Newborn Health (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

Prenatal Substance Abuse: Short- and Long-term Effects on the Exposed Fetus (American Academy of Pediatrics)

Children Born to Heroin-Addicted Mothers: What’s the Outcome 25 Years Later? (Herranz GS, Vílchez MAL, Ledo JD, Sierra AM, 2014)

Treatment of Pregnant Women

Clinical Guidance for Treating Pregnant and Parenting Women With Opioid Use Disorder and Their Infants (SAMHSA)

Opioid Misuse in Pregnant and Postpartum Women Is on the Rise (The Pew Charitable Trusts)

A Collaborative Approach to the Treatment of Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorders (SAMHSA, Children's Bureau/ACF)

Children of Addicted Parents

Substance-Exposed Newborns: New Federal Law Raises Some Old Issues (National Conference of State Legislatures)

Substance-Exposed Infants: State Responses to the Problem (SAMHSA)

US babies born addicted to opioids has tripled in 15 years, CDC says (Ross, Casey)

State-level Policy Advocacy for Children Affected by Parental Substance Use (Children and Family Futures)

Heroin/Other Opioids and Child Welfare (Child Welfare Information Gateway)

Impacts on Foster Care

Combating Rise of Heroin Abuse in Child-Welfare System (American Bar Association)

Organizations across the country have been working tirelessly to address the opioid epidemic. They are conducting research, formulating recommendations and offering insight from various perspectives to formulate resolutions and recommendations to combat the nation's crisis. A collection of their reports and recommendations are found below.

Finding Solutions to the Prescription Opioid and Heroin Crisis: A Road Map for States (National Governors Association)

Summary of Recommendations (President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.)

Recommendations to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (National Association of County and City Health Officials)

Resolution Supporting Systemic Data Collection, Aggregation and Analysis to Combat the Opioid Epidemic (The Council of State Governments)

Our Vision and Direction, 2018-2021 (Addiction Policy Forum)

Addressing the Opioid Crisis in the United States (Institute for Healthcare Improvement)

Bridging the Gaps: Reducing Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse and Misuse Summit (National Association of Attorneys General)

A Prescription for Action: Local Leadership in Ending the Opioid Crisis (National League of Cities and National Association of Counties)

The Unprecedented Opioid Epidemic: As Overdoses Become a Leading Cause of Death, Police, Sheriffs, and Health Agencies Must Step Up Their Response (Police Executive Research Forum)

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (Office of the Surgeon General)

Physicians’ Progress to Reverse the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic (American Medical Association Opioid Task Force)

Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use, 2017 (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine)

From the true story of a Florida prescription pill mill, a thought-provoking study of the prescription drug epidemic from a doctor’s perspective to a probing look at the struggles of growing up in a poor working class town, these books offer insight into today’s opioid epidemic.

American Pain by John Temple

Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari

Dreamland by Sam Quinones

Drug Dealer, MD by Anna Lembke, MD

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance