When we examine the issues of drug and alcohol addiction, we make a very grave mistake in deigning to only examine the drug addicts and the alcoholics themselves. Case in point, we often completely forget to consider the children of drug-addicted fathers and mothers.
Any individual drug addict or alcoholic is certainly a person who needs a great deal of help. Such a person is absolutely someone to address. However, such a person is also going to have a significant effect on those around them. A drug addict is a person who needs to be helped, but we can’t ignore the family members and loved ones of that addict who are also significantly inhibited and harmed in their lives because of the other person’s drug abuse habit.
Absolutely, the children of drug addicts and alcoholics are the most impacted by America’s moms and dads who struggle with addiction. A substance abuse habit is highly disabling. Such habits exacerbate other health problems, both mental and physical. And such habits make it all but impossible for those individuals to raise children well.
Furthermore, the children of substance abusers not only have a tough and extremely unpleasant upbringing, but they are also statistically speaking more than twice as likely to have substance abuse problems of their own by their late teens or early twenties, merely as a result of such frequent exposure to drugs and alcohol during their childhood. Another factor is that the children of substance abusing parents are at an extremely heightened risk for negative life problems like emotional distress, social development problems, behavioral adjustment problems, attitude problems, and trouble in school.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg too. The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics did research on the subject, finding out definitively that children suffer the most at the hands of addicts. According to NACA, more than twenty-eight million Americans are the children of alcoholics. Almost eleven million of them are still under the age of eighteen. Millions more are the children of drug users. Obviously, this unpleasant and even dangerous situation is a lot more prominent than we once thought it was.
Three out of four child welfare experts indicate that substance abuse is one of the top causes if not the top cause for child maltreatment. Child welfare experts have been saying this since 1986. Furthermore, child welfare experts say that when there is a bad situation for a kid at home, at least half of the time drugs and alcohol are involved in a case of the physical maltreatment of that child.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine posted a key question that we have to ask in attempting to address children of addicted parents. The question is:
This question covers all of the bases and is more than spot on and accurate in its focus towards helping the children of addicts.
When we try to help the children of addicts, our main focus needs to be on creating a safe space for them. Children who are exposed to drug use and alcoholism for long enough will almost always be significantly and dangerously impacted by that exposure. Whether they become addicts themselves, whether they adopt a substance abuse problem of their own, or whether they simply harbor unpleasant memories and bad childhood habits, any or all of these factors can often be present.
No matter the son or daughter’s age, the focus has to be on creating a safe space for them. Hopefully, this does not mean having to extricate them from their parents’ home, but this is sometimes necessary.
Another way to create a safe space for the son or daughter of a drug user would be to actively address the addicted parent. If the parent was addressed and if the parent was sent into and through a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation program, it is very likely that the son or daughter’s living situation and home environment would improve. Removing the son or daughter from the environment does not have to be the only situation. In fact, getting the parent or parents off of drugs and alcohol is a far better solution, as it improves the living condition for all involved.
No child should have to grow up in an environment of substance abuse. This is not fair to anyone involved. When parents struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, they need to do right by their kids. They need to get clean.