How Does a Parent’s Addiction Affect Children?

Children need stability, and addiction households tend to be unpredictable, stressful and emotionally crippling. When it comes to the root cause for drug abuse, the consensus is that genetics and environment each play an equal role. Many individuals develop an addiction with just one of these factors, so imagine the risk for children facing both in an addiction household.

Children of Addicted Parents

Drug and alcohol abuse can affect children in many negative ways, and it can start as early as a mother’s pregnancy. Even moderate substance use can harm a child’s development and increase the risk of physical and mental health problems. Here are some other ways addiction can affect children:

  • Places the family’s financial stability in jeopardy
  • Increases the likelihood of physical and/or emotional abuse
  • Higher rates of divorce, unemployment and violence
  • Risky behavior that can deprive children of a parent through jail, injury or worse
  • State takes custody of children in extreme addiction situations

Children in addiction households also tend to suffer more emotional issues and mood disorders. These conditions can include:

  • “Adaptive distancing” that affects a child’s other relationships and social skills
  • Higher incidence of depression, eating disorders, anxiety and suicide attempts
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome, gastrointestinal disorders and other stress-related issues
  • Lower self-esteem and sense of control
  • Feelings of shame and embarrassment

The Center on Addiction and the Family also notes a higher occurrence of classroom problems. The children of an addicted parent often experience more failing grades, truancy, expulsion, school transfers and learning disabilities.

Genetic Predisposition to Addiction

The American Journal of Psychiatry, Current Psychiatry Reports and the Archives of General Psychiatry are just a few of the academic journals to publish studies about hereditary addiction tendencies. If there is a history of substance abuse in your family, the best way to break the cycle is to get your own addiction under control. Otherwise, the children might:

  • See addiction as an inevitability that they cannot overcome
  • Develop drug-using habits through learned behaviors
  • Doubt the power of treatment and recovery

If genetics play a role in a family member’s addiction, it is especially important to seek professional help.

Professional Addiction Treatment

Rehab is a tremendous help in minimizing the withdrawal symptoms, and a tapered detox can be used in many situations. Nevertheless, the key to a sustained recovery is a holistic approach that includes relapse-prevention techniques. This can include:

  • Dual Diagnosis treatment for depression, anxiety and other disorders
  • Recognize personal drug-use triggers and how to avoid them
  • Examine underlying conditions or motivations behind the addiction
  • Explore family or genetic issues that might play a role in the abuse
  • Work with the family to provide healing and restore trust
  • Help repair relationships the abuse might have strained
  • Group therapy and aftercare support for the patient and family

An addiction household can scar a child, but healing the whole family is an important treatment goal. For this reason, an addicted parent should never delay getting help.

Drug Abuse Helpline

Our addiction specialists are available 24 hours a day to answer questions about addiction, treatment options and rehab expectations. We can also check insurance policies for coverage and provide advice on explaining treatment to children. Call our toll-free helpline and start the healing process today.