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The Effects of Parental Substance Abuse

By: ATSI Admin April 10, 2014 no comments

The Effects of Parental Substance Abuse

shadow window_flickr_grover webAs we know, children are heavily influenced by their parents. Whether adults like to admit it or not, their children are always watching them, looking to them for guidance and learning from them. Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol are setting their children up for many problems throughout life.

Drug addiction and alcoholism affects the entire family. Family members justifiably take on the strains and stresses of their loved one’s financial problems, legal matters and his or her overall health and well-being. Arguments and aggressive behavior spurred by addiction can lead to fights and emotional trauma. Family members often live in fear that others will discover their family’s secret and judge them for it, in light of the persistent stigmas attached to addiction.

Children of Addicts

Children of addicted individuals are especially vulnerable and often suffer from low self-esteem, behavioral issues, trouble concentrating and a drop in grades. Many children suffer in silence, and as they get older face relationship issues related to commitment and/or co-dependency.

“If your parent is being grumpy or doesn’t show up … then you may as a child try to get better grades, or be smarter, or funnier, or cuter, or to act in some way that you think is going to get your parent to be the way you want them to be,” says Carolyn Hannan Bell, author of a children’s book entitled Daddy’s Disease. She added, “That can cause a lifelong behavior pattern of co-dependency. You can’t control another person. You’re wasting all of your energy.”

Many children of addicted parents end up struggling with drug and alcohol addiction themselves. In the 2002-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, teens were more likely to have used alcohol in the previous month if they lived with a parent who had an alcohol problem.

Finding Help for Children in Need

Every day, children are being exposed to parental substance addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, between 2008 and 2012, 6.4 percent of New Jersey residents older than 12 were addicted to or abused alcohol in the previous year, and 2.4 percent abused drugs. Of those who used drugs or alcohol, fewer than 10 percent sought treatment for the problem.

Support groups like Al-Anon and Alateen help the family system nurture and understand its own physical and emotional health. The children who continue to go unnoticed and untreated, however, often grow up blaming themselves for their parents’ addictions, which can leave lasting effects. With the right kind of help in the form of counseling, therapy and eventually support groups, these children can go on to lead happy, successful lives.

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