Sariah Cardona had not even reached her Terrible Two’s when she died of a drug overdose, a lethal combination of Xanax and oxycodone. The 21-month-old girl crawled out of her mother’s bed one night and found a stash of pills, says the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She died on April 11, 2007, a victim of child neglect and her mother’s substance abuse problem, investigators say. Her overdose was one of nearly 250 fatal drug overdoses in Palm Beach County last year. Though prescription drug abuse continues to rise, it’s rare for a child to die from taking a parent’s drugs.
But Department of Children & Families workers who investigate child-abuse cases say prescription drug abuse is increasingly a threat to children of addicted caregivers. Substance abuse is the No. 1 factor involved in families brought to the attention of the DCF. In Palm Beach County, nearly half of failed reunifications between a parent and child are connected to substance abuse, DCF officials say. Joan Castro, 26, was arrested eight months after her daughter’s death on a charge of child neglect causing great bodily harm. She has pleaded not guilty, but during a court appearance last weekher attorney told a judge Castro plans to plead guilty at her next appearance, scheduled for June 30.