Parents in Florida are having their sons and daughters taken from them due to drug addiction to prescription drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin.
The St. Petersburg Times recently reported on the case of a mother who lost custody of her young children because she was abusing prescription drugs. Shannon Kazakowitz is one of a growing number of parents in Florida whose children are being taken away due to prescription drug addiction. In Pasco and Pinellas counties, located on Florida’s gulf coast, calls to the child welfare abuse hotline that involve prescription painkillers have increased by more than 600 percent in just three years. Some social workers and judges believe that up to 80 percent of child welfare cases in Florida are now related to prescription drugs.
In order to regain custody of their children, parents must show that they have given up drugs completely. This is even the case for drugs that have been legitimately prescribed by a doctor. In Shannon’s case, she began to take Percocet under doctor supervision to combat chronic back pain following a car accident. By the time she became pregnant with her first child, she was taking 6 tablets per day. According to Shannon, she quit taking the drug while pregnant with her first son but during her second pregnancy she took two to three pills per day.
In 2009, someone called the child abuse hotline to report that Shannon was abusing and selling prescription drugs. She showed investigators prescriptions for oxycodone, methadone and Xanax. Since the prescriptions appeared to be legitimate, she was placed on probation and ordered to meet with a family interventionist. Shannon missed her scheduled meetings. Out of work, she was evicted from her apartment. She began to move with her children one seedy motel to another. Shannon’s father, unhappy with the life his grandchildren were living, called the authorities to have the children taken away from their mother.
After losing her children, Shannon began a downward spiral that included cocaine abuse and taking massive doses of oxycodone. She failed a drug tests that would have allowed her to get her children back and was jailed for probation violation. Then she attempted to turn her life around, completing 90 days of in-patient rehab and staying off drugs. It had been 15 months since she lost her children and she was within a few weeks of regaining custody when an abscessed tooth sent her to the dentist. She filled the dentist’s prescription for Percocet and failed a scheduled drug test.
Drug experts say that individuals who have an addiction to prescription drugs should avoid them altogether following rehab treatment. After Shannon failed to show up for a court appearance, a warrant was issued for her arrest and the court began proceedings to terminate her parental rights. Living as a fugitive, Shannon recently discovered that she is pregnant with twins.
The case of Shannon Kazakowitz dramatically illustrates the devastating effect that prescription drug abuse can have on children and families. Florida has been on the leading edge of the prescription drug abuse epidemic in America. The child welfare problems caused by prescription drug abuse in Florida could be the tip of the iceberg of a larger problem that will profoundly impact children in every state in the union.
Click here to read more about treatment for OxyContin abuse.