The Five Ways Parental Substance Abuse Impacts Children

How does addiction affect the family? The answer to this question is important for any adult struggling with substance abuse. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol and you have kids, you are affecting them in more ways than you can imagine. If you know adults who are addicted and have children, intervention is crucial to protect those kids from the damage that comes with substance abuse in the family. The more everyone understands just how serious addiction is and how much it affects children, the more we will be able to prevent problems and protect the most vulnerable.

  1. Addiction often leads to abuse. Substance abuse is the number one reason implicated in child abuse. Not all addicts will abuse their kids, but many do. Children with addicted parents are more likely to suffer from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They are also more likely than other children to be neglected and to be removed from the home.
  2. Children of addicts struggle with mental illness. Kids whose parents are addicts are also more likely than their peers to have mental health issues. They are more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression. Children with addicted parents are more likely to end up being hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.
  3. Addiction leads to behavior problems. Whether they abuse the most addictive substances or not, addicted parents have children who often struggle with behavioral problems. They were not given the correct guidance or the tools from their parents for dealing with social situations. The result is that they have trouble acting appropriately in school and with other children. These children are more likely than their peers to have ADHD or oppositional defiant disorder.
  4. Children of addicts struggle academically. Behaviors problems are not the only ways in which these kids struggle in school. They consistently perform worse on achievement tests than their peers, are more likely to be absent from school, more likely to repeat a grade and more likely to drop out of school.
  5. Addiction is generational. Perhaps the most devastating effect of addiction in families is the predisposition for the children to become addicts. Substance abuse problems run in families and the children of addicts are much more likely to struggle with their own addiction problems later in life. Children of addicted parents are in the highest risk group for future substance abuse.

So how does drug abuse affect families? Drug and alcohol abuse affects families in devastating ways, but kids are the most vulnerable. They are at risk for abuse and neglect, for becoming addicts, for mental illness and poor achievement in school. Parents with addiction issues need to get help, but it’s difficult. With the well-being of children as a motivating factor, hopefully more adults will reach out and get the help they need.

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