Effects of substance abuse on children in the family

Drug and alcohol abuse is a large problem for adults in our world today. But it is probably an even bigger problem for the children of today who are being raised by alcoholics or drug users. These children have to endure a family life that is often unpredictable and chaotic, which can lead to many problems later in life. To think that these children have their whole future ahead of them should cause much concern about how they are being raised today.

Family Life

Many parents that abuse drugs or alcohol will treat their families differently on different days, depending on their level of sobriety at the time. Often the mood swings and changes in parenting that these parents exhibit will confuse the child or make them insecure. Inconsistent care by a parent can lead to a child that either has to grow up quickly and assume adult responsibilities, or one that rebels and gives up trying to do well in school or life. Children in these homes need to constantly be prepared for a parent that is high or drunk, one that is irrational and unable to provide the care that a child needs.

Families that suffer with substance abuse are more at risk for domestic violence, mental illness, divorce, and sexual and physical abuse than other families. These issues are very detrimental and can lead to children with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Children in these situations may be withdrawn and have trouble bonding with others. Often they feel that the problems of the family are their fault or that it is their job to conceal the problem, and this can lead to low self esteem, lack of desire to perform well in school, or fear of failure. It would be difficult for these children to make friends because of the fear that someone in the outside world will find out about their secret, or will witness the chaos firsthand.

A vicious cycle

If a child is living with an alcoholic or drug user, the child is likely to develop a warped sense of normal when it comes to using these substances. They may know that their parent drinks too much, or does drugs, but over time, the child may not know what other families are like, or how many drinks a regular person is expected to have in a day. Children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to become alcoholics themselves, which leads these families into a cycle that is hard to break. Fathers drink to deal with stress in their life, and when their children get older, they have learned that the way to handle stress is to drink.

Dealing with the issue

The good news is that children of alcoholics and drug abusers often develop an inner strength that helps them get through the tough times at home. With much love and encouragement from a sober parent, another relative, or even a social worker or teacher, these children can go on to live happy, successful lives. And of course, the best scenario is if the addict in the family receives treatment and overcomes the problem, and then the child can continue their life and work on a brighter future.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.