Parent Addiction Causes Children to Suffer

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 | By JP Emerald Coast


Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) affect more than 20 million people across the U.S. and when you think about how many additional lives the addiction impacts, the numbers soar. Nearly 8 million also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder. Parent addiction can most directly and negatively impact the children. Not only is the substance abuse detrimental to the parent’s mental and physical well-being but children are reaping the negative effects as well – emotionally, physically and mentally.

A clinical report, “Families Affected by Parental Substance Use,” issued from Harvard researchers in 2016 says that one in five children is affected by parents with drug or alcohol misuse. The study also finds children whose parents abuse drugs and alcohol are three times more likely to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused and four times more likely to be emotionally or physically neglected. When a parent is consumed with seeking the next high or is dependent on alcohol just to function from day-to-day, the basic health needs of children fall behind. Nearly 25 percent of children of mothers with SUDs lacked routine health maintenance services before the age of two.

The Dysfunctional Household of Parent Addiction

Children can face a lot of instability growing up in a household when the parent addiction takes over. When a household is filled with drug or alcohol abuse the child is negatively effected mentally and physically.. Parents with SUDs can be financial unstable, finding it difficult to hold a steady job. This in turn makes basic necessities like food and housing in question from day-to-day, creating a stressful environment for the entire family. Parental substance use often means the parent is not present mentally or even physically, meaning discipline is either lacking or just the opposite – too harsh. They are absent in their child’s life for important events, to help with schoolwork or to be supportive emotionally. In some cases, basic safety measures are ignored at home, leaving children vulnerable to injuries.

Mental Health Effects on Children

It’s difficult to imagine what children have seen or experienced by living in an environment filled with alcohol or drug abuse. Researchers found common mental health disorders of children to include anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, truancy, and trauma and stress-related disorder. Different scenarios can arise with adverse effects for children, including divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse in the form of physical or sexual. Children could also lose a parent to incarceration or tragically an overdose. Neglect, the study says “has more long-term implications for a child’s mental health and development than do abuse and other forms of maltreatment.”

The devastating effects on children from any one of these situations  “may exceed the child’s coping mechanisms, resulting in permanent changes in the developing brain,” according to Harvard researchers. “These brain changes can manifest as behavior problems, violence, and substance use health risk behaviors by the child through the life span.”

Find Help at JourneyPure Emerald Coast                

If you are a parent suffering with an addiction or are aware of a family who needs help, please call us today.  We have onsite detox and a caring staff that is there 24/7 to make the process as comfortable as possible and we treat any co-occurring mental health disorder simultaneously with the addiction. Our goal is for our patients to get healthy and stay healthy.


Families Affected by Parental Substance Use


Pediatrics Jul 2016, e20161575; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-1575


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