How Substance Abuse Affects Parenting

Substance abuse and addiction have the potential to run or destroy lives. This is hardly breaking news. But it bears repeating that substance abuse affects far more than the life of the user. If you are a parent and you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, every move you make will directly impact your children. They look to you for, well… virtually everything.

For the millions of children with an addicted parent, this vital dynamic gets flipped on its head. In the name of addressing such a dangerous trend, let’s review some of the many ways substance abuse affects parenting.

How Substance Abuse Affects Parenting

At least 20 percent of U.S. children live with a parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. In the year 2000, drugs or alcohol were the primary reason children were removed from a home in 18.5 percent of cases. By 2019, that number had risen to 39.9 percent.

Here are a few examples of the toll these realities take on kids stuck in such scenarios:

  • Addiction during pregnancy can lead to severe issues like mental health and attention disorders, stunting growth, and organ malformation.
  • There is a much higher likelihood that children from homes with addicted parents will eventually become addicted themselves. If drugs and alcohol are normalized in a home, children follow suit.
  • Parents struggling with addiction are less equipped to keep their children healthy. Something that appears as basic as regular check-ups may get neglected.
  • Addiction saps one’s finances. This can leave a child without healthy food, clean clothes, etc.
  • Children of substance-abusing parents are far more likely to struggle with depression or anxiety disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • There is a greater chance of abuse of any and all kinds being present in such a home.
  • Meanwhile, the simple things children need—nurturing, attention, help with homework, daily communication, etc.—are absent.
  • As the children age, they may face ridicule and shame from classmates and neighbors.
  • Academic performance suffers, and such children often act out in a school setting. They may not go to school at all. This can escalate into criminal activity and trouble with the law.
  • Children lose contact with relatives and have trouble making friends. Even when they have friends, they feel uncomfortable even bringing such friends home.
  • For young children, the impact can be traumatic—shaping their lives well into adulthood. They never learn crucial lessons in trust, safety, and love.
  • In some cases, children are removed from homes in which substance abuse is the norm. Such children are then thrust into the realm of foster homes.

These Children Need Support

Regardless of their age, the children of addicted parents desperately need someone to talk with and someone to listen to them. Working with a mental health professional gives these kids a chance to just be kids. Also, they can:

  • Learn how to differentiate their parent from the behavior they’re exhibiting.
  • Come to understand that they (the children) are not to blame for their parent’s addiction.
  • Develop ways to process their emotions.

These Parents Need Support

Parents engaged in substance abuse do not set out to become addicts. They certainly don’t plan on hurting or damaging their children. But they must be willing to ask for the help they need. A therapist can be critical in this process. Reaching out for the guidance of a skilled practitioner is a giant step toward improving the lives of everyone involved and affected.

Make a move as soon as possible. The impacted children can heal with the support of professionals. The addicted parents can reclaim their lives. It all starts with a free and confidential consultation. I urge you to make the call today so that true recovery can begin.

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