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How Does Addiction Affect Children?

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How Does Addiction Affect Children?

Thousands of children are being raised today by one or both parents with a drug or alcohol addiction.  Addiction is not a solitary disease.  Although most addicts try to keep their substance abuse a secret, the consequences of addiction eventually impact everyone in the family. It is estimated that approximately twenty-five percent of American children under the age of 18 are living with an alcoholic or drug addicted parent. These children are at a disadvantage according to researchers because they become prone to developing behavioral abnormalities which can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and other mental health conditions in adolescence. Many will turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with emotional issues of adolescence that are exacerbated by parental addiction.  This can also lead to lifelong addictions for those who do not get help.

4 % of Adolescents who use drugs have one or more parents who also use drugs.

Exactly How Many Children Have Parents Suffering from Addiction?

  • Approximately 5 million Americans with children under the age of 18 in the home either abused alcohol or were alcohol dependent.
  • Over 6 million children (10% of those under 5, 8% of those 6-11, and 9% of those 12-17) had one or more parents who abused illicit substances or were alcoholics.
  • 4.5 million children between the ages of 5 to 17 had at least one parent with and alcohol problem
  • Nearly 1 million had a parent with a single illicit substance addiction
  • 600,000 children had a parent who had problems with both alcohol and drugs.
  • 3.2% of mothers had a both a problem with drug and/or alcohol use and a mental illness.
  • 16.1% of mothers living with young children between the ages of 12 and 17 were substance users characterized by binge drinking or illicit substance use.

Statistics were reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) based on a 2002 and 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Effects of Parental Addiction on Children

Addiction and substance abuse have many environmental impacts which effect everyone around them. Children of addicted parents suffer not only from those environmental effects but also are at risk of for alcoholism and drug dependence much more than other children. Both substance abuse and addiction can have serious consequences for children who live in households where one or more parents actively struggles with the disease. According to gene research, addiction is 50% genetic and 50% environmental. The result of dual components is children who are twice as likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol themselves. More importantly, children of addicts are often neglected and subject to abuse. The effects of addiction on children can lead to the development of depression, anxiety, and anger management.

Recent studies suggest a strong genetic component, particularly for early onset of alcoholism in males. Sons of alcoholic fathers are at fourfold risk compared with the male offspring of non-alcoholic fathers.

As a child of an addict you can reach out to social workers or school counselors for family therapy options and individual counseling to facilitate proper coping mechanisms. Typically in families where one or more parents struggle with addiction, children are taught to limit their communication, not to talk about family problems, to internalize emotions, and to avoid selfish behavior as well as conflict. All of these characteristics can stick with children as they mature into adults even once parents are in recovery. Counseling and therapy are proven to limit the development of these characteristics and can help children learn healthy ways of dealing with their emotions. Therapy can also reduce the risk of children developing dependencies later in life.

Use of substances by parents and their adolescent children is strongly correlated; generally, if parents take drugs, sooner or later their children will also

How to Stop the Cycle

The most important step a parent can take to stop the cycle of addiction is to get into a treatment program. Being proactive about exploring the most effective treatment that is available to them can help the addict to overcome addiction and return the focus to raising healthy children.  Our sponsored facilities each offer different family addiction counseling and therapy programs that can also help children understand that they are not responsible for their parents substance abuse. These types of programs have also been shown to create stronger bonds between families. During treatment parents learn how addiction impact the entire family and their children in particular.  Treatment is an important way to intercept the generational cycle of addiction.

Children of Addicted Parents can Live Healthy, Happy, Lives

  • Children who have support from grand-parents, siblings, teachers, and non-alcoholic parents are more likely to cope effectively from the trauma of growing up in addicted household.
  • Children of addicted parents are often very independent, have strong social skills and better abilities to cope with negative emotional experiences due to closely relying on other supportive adults.
  • Children who speak with other piers struggling with similar family dysfunction can experience decreased feelings of isolation,shame, guilt, and learn the importance of mutual support.

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