Drug Addict Parent: How Substance Abuse Affects Children

Being the child of drug-addicted parents can feel like growing up in a war zone

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Being the child of drug-addicted parents can feel like growing up in a war zone rather than an average family. Children of people who are addicted to substances see their parents’ personalities change due to their addiction.

The behaviors of the person battling substance use disorder are frequently built within family dynamics (SUD). A parent who has a substance addiction problem may be authoritarian or deny that their child has a problem with drugs or alcohol. They are prone to issuing commands and blaming others for their issues. To avoid confrontation, family members will agree to act normally and not bring up the drug abuse.

drug addict parent
Growing up with an addicted parent

This may lead individuals to ignore their emotions, as well as what they know and see.

Denial like this can have a tremendous psychological impact on loved ones, particularly youngsters. Despite evidence to the contrary, more than half of children with an addicted parent deny their parent’s substance abuse.

Emotional and developmental problems are common among children who grow up in homes where their parents use drugs. Co-occurring disorders in families include parental drug use and child maltreatment. Children that grow up in an environment where one or both parents abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused.

Children whose parents abuse drugs or alcohol are at a higher risk, whether due to their parents’ use or exposure to those who do.

These sorts of maltreatment can have long-term traumatic consequences that can be devastating. When drugs and alcohol take precedence, parents lose sight of their responsibilities as parents and the importance of being physically and emotionally available to their children. 

In these instances, parents frequently feel guilty and ashamed about their addiction, and these sentiments promote increased substance used to cover the guilt and shame. It’s a cyclical process that can keep people stuck when combined with the physical features of addiction. 

Children learn that their needs are no longer a priority due to substance misuse, which has a significant emotional impact. Neglect has long-term emotional and physiological consequences for children, as well as severe health outcomes. Angry outbursts, despair, anxiety, and detachment are common behavioral and emotional difficulties in children who live in families with addicted parents. Because it is difficult for children to express how they feel and think, their actions are usually the best sign of their emotional state.  

Children’s emotional and physical well-being suffers when they grow up in a home where neglect is the norm and substance misuse is prioritized. Their ability to form healthy attachments to others is jeopardized. In this situation, children are more prone to repeat these habits in their own life, resulting in an intergenerational issue.

Developmental problems, such as speech delays, malnutrition, and cognitive functioning deficits, are common when neglected children due to parental substance misuse. Birth abnormalities, attachment issues, and drug-affected neonates can all occur from parental drug use during pregnancy.

The effects of substance misuse on children are severe and often irreversible. Parents do not intend to get addicted, but due to the physically addictive aspects of drugs and alcohol, they frequently become increasingly involved with substance usage. 

Substance abuse can quickly become addicting. Addiction is a danger for parents who abuse drugs and alcohol, especially with a hereditary predisposition and co-occurring mental health issues. These are serious health problems that can reduce a child’s lifetime and capacity to learn and function.

Substance Dependence Affects The Entire Family

Drug and alcohol abuse is the most serious national public health issue, and it affects people of all ages. Drug and alcohol abuse affects all ethnic and social groups, affecting the rich and the poor in all corners of the country. 

Millions of Americans abuse or are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The majority of them have families touched by the disease and endure the repercussions of living with someone who has it. Children, in particular, require reassurance that they are not alone.

Families develop a false feeling of hope. They begin to feel that the situation is not as awful as it appears since, like most addicts, their loved one has a job and is regarded as a contributing part of society. Substance abuse deteriorates with time, causing harm to not only the addict but also their family members.

Denial is a part of the condition known as addiction, and denial is a part of the sickness known as addiction. Drug and alcohol addiction can hurt the entire family, but it is especially harmful to young children and teenagers. Individuals suffering from this condition may have a distorted perception of reality. They might believe that everyone uses drugs or that their drinking is every day.

Long-Term Effects

Domestic violence, overdose, and incarceration are all devastating experiences for children of drug addict parents. These kids may face long-term difficulties as adults as a result of their exposure. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, children of addicted parents can develop depression as adults.

Many studies, including the one from the University of North Carolina, reveal that children of substance-abusing parents had higher rates of anxiety, depression, oppositional behavior, behavioral difficulties, and aggressive behavior than their peers. They also have lower levels of self-confidence and social skills.

Substance abuse disorders are frequently passed on from parents to their children. It’s a vicious circle. According to SAMHSA, children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics than children of sober parents (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). They also discovered that parents who have substance abuse problems put their children at a higher risk of using illegal drugs.

According to NSDUH data from 2009 to 2014, around 8.7 million (12.3 percent) children aged 17 or younger lived in families where at least one parent had a SUD. About 7.5 million (10.5 percent) children lived in homes where at least one parent had an alcohol use disorder. In the previous year, almost 2.1 million (2.9 percent) children lived in families where at least one parent had an illegal substance use disorder.

drug addict parent

Talking To Children About Substance Abuse In The Home

Keeping a parent’s drug usage hidden might make a youngster feel guilty or ashamed. Due to their parent’s lack of emotional availability, children of addicts frequently feel abandoned.

Addict parents might have adverse outcomes. Substance misuse can lead to the dissolution of a family or the removal of children from their homes. This has a variety of effects on youngsters.

Some youngsters may become introverted and shy, while others may lash out with explosive behavior and violence. Self-esteem, bonding, autonomy, and trust are among issues that children with alcoholic parents face.

Starting a dialogue with a child when one or both parents are addicts can be unsettling and challenging. Because trust is typically a problem in these cases, it is better to tell a youngster the truth when addressing addiction in the family. In the previous year, almost 2.1 million (2.9 percent) children lived in families where at least one parent had an illegal substance use disorder.

Substance Dependence Is A Disease

Children of addicted parents have seen their parents when they are drunk or high regularly. During these times, they may do or say things that are harmful or inexplicable. Children need to understand that their parents are not horrible people. They need to perceive them as sick people who are afflicted with a disease.

Don’t Blame Yourself

When interacting with children whose parents are addicts, they make the mistake of blaming themselves. Children must understand that their parents’ drug or alcohol addiction is not their fault. They must also be informed that they are not responsible for the behavior’s cessation.

They Are Not Alone

A youngster may believe that they are alone in this situation. They may feel that none of their classmates are dealing with addicted parents at home, in addition to the pressure of keeping their parent’s addiction a secret. There are millions of youngsters whose parents are alcoholics or drug addicts. You can tell them that other kids at their school are in the same boat as them.

Talk About It

It is natural for a child who feels alone in a circumstance such as a family addiction to avoid talking about it. Children with drug addict parents must be taught that discussing the situation is acceptable and that they do not need to feel guilty, terrified, or humiliated. They need to speak with someone they can trust, such as a teacher, counselor, foster parent, a peer support group member, or a faith-based group.

Children have a right to have their feelings affirmed. They also require the presence of responsible adults in their life who can provide them with help that is age and context-appropriate. Furthermore, children must be allowed to have fun and enjoy being children.

The Seven Cs

  1. I didn’t cause it
  2. I can’t control it
  3. I can care for myself
  4. I can’t cure it
  5. By communicating my feelings
  6. Making healthy choices
  7. Celebrating myself

Children living with familial addiction should study the “7Cs of Addiction,” according to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

The 7 Cs can also be beneficial for children whose parents have a drug addiction problem.

Children whose parents struggle with substance misuse are prone to be fearful and withdraw from society. It is not necessary to be perfect when talking to them about addiction and instilling positive ideas. The critical thing is that they realize they can confide in someone, which is essential in their recovery.

Drug Addict Parents’ Psychological Health Issues Impacts Kids

Children whose parents deal with mental illness and addiction are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction themselves. Those abused may experience trauma, which manifests as hypervigilance, flashbacks, and an enhanced startle response. 

The mental health and substance addiction practices of parents have a direct impact on their children’s well-being. According to a 2016 study, parents’ mental health issues significantly affected toddlers’ well-being and increased behavioral problems. By the fifth grade, fathers with mental health disorders had had a long-term impact on their children’s social abilities in areas like self-control and cooperation.

When parents deal with mental health and addiction concerns, they have little time to attend to their children’s needs. The focus on substance availability, combined with the crippling impact of mental health disorders on energy and mood, provides a distraction for parents that overrides their ability to be present for their children in any meaningful way.

Parents are the most crucial component in a child’s life during childhood; how parents function affects how children think and feel about the world around them and themselves. Parental satisfaction and responses to parenting responsibilities impact the relationship and can influence the mental health of both parents and children.

Parents’ capacity to prioritize their children’s needs is harmed when distracted by drug and alcohol addiction. Children who grow up in this family immediately learn that they are not safe and that their parents cannot prioritize them.

What Is the First Step To Recovery?

The first step toward recovery for addicted parents and their families is acknowledging and accepting that they need treatment. You’ll also need to locate support for all of your loved ones and family members.

If a parent refuses to seek help, family, friends, and even associates may join forces to confront the addict. When persuading the person to seek treatment, they must be loving and sympathetic while yet being tough. It’s good to let them know what will happen if they don’t go to therapy—for example, a family breakup or a career loss. The term “intervention” refers to these processes or acts.

Family members, friends, and acquaintances who are prepared and work with a competent specialist will be able to persuade their loved ones that seeking help and beginning on the road to recovery is their only option. Parents who have addiction problems can and do heal. The first step will almost certainly be an intervention.

Recovery Is a Possible At Miracles Recovery Center

Everyone loses when addiction takes over, including parents and children, extended family, and friends. Addiction, thankfully, is treatable. Families can reunite, and parent-child ties can be healed when rehabilitation is selected. Although substance abuse is dangerous and destructive, it does not have to be the end of the tale. Drug addict parents are not the only ones that suffer from this situation. Everybody in their circle does!

You don’t have to go through substance misuse or mental health difficulties alone if you or a loved one is struggling. You and your family are deserving of assistance. Miracles Recovery is aware of the challenges that parents of addicts confront. Miracles Recovery’s skilled and experienced specialists are ready to assist you in achieving your goals and living the life you’ve always desired. Contact us so we can help you during this journey. 

Nobody should have to tackle recovery alone; it worked best with the help of experienced specialists and loved ones. Every step of the journey, we’ll be there for you, from designing a treatment plan to developing healthy coping skills so you can stay clean and all in between.


  • How to help a child whose parent is struggling with addiction?


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