The drug problem in the United States has reached such epidemic levels that even the children’s educational program Sesame Street is updating a character to introduce her family’s struggles with addiction.

Sesame Workshop, the group behind Sesame Street, made the announcement Wednesday.

“The initiative features Karli, a 6½-year-old Sesame Street Muppet whose mom is dealing with addiction,” the news release reads. “In new videos and other content, favorite Sesame Street characters like Elmo and Abby Cadabby learn what Karli is going through and help their friend to cope.”

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While Karli was brought on the show earlier this year as a face for foster children, this is the first mention of her mom’s substance abuse problem.

In a short segment aired by Sesame Street as an introduction to the character’s problems, she explains to Elmo that her mother is part of a recovery group that aims to help its members get better.

Although the subject matter seems dark for preschool-age children, it’s a reality more and more are facing.

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Drug addiction has skyrocketed in the past decade thanks to access to painkillers, which doctors often prescribed without any warning to the patient. Fueled by cheap fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from China, the problem ballooned into an outright epidemic.

The disease affects the young and old, rich and poor, parents and the childless.

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Because of addiction’s reach, kids are often left to suffer as their parents give in to drugs. For some who get help, this can be reversed and helped. For those who don’t, things quickly go downhill.

The dangers of drug addiction are not just about children finding their parent’s stash, either.

Overdoses kill tens of thousands of Americans every year. Sometimes this is due to a miscalculation on the user’s part, and sometimes it’s because of a bad or tainted batch of narcotics.

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Even withdrawals can be deadly if an addict is too dependent on a drug, robbing a young child of his or her parents in the blink of an eye.

“Addiction is often seen as a ‘grown-up’ issue, but it impacts children in ways that aren’t always visible,” Sesame Workshop’s Sherrie Westin said in the news release. “Having a parent battling addiction can be one of the most isolating and stressful situations young children and their families face.

“Sesame Street has always been a source of comfort to children during the toughest of times, and our new resources are designed to break down the stigma of parental addiction and help families build hope for the future.”

For kids who feel alienated and alone over their parent’s addiction to drugs, Sesame Street’s characters will be a reassuring and positive force that these children sorely need.

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This content was originally published here.

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