The Effects of Parent Drug Abuse on Young Children
The effects of parent drug use on ages 6 to 12 and on children even younger are detrimental and lasting. Young children with parents using drugs may experience traumas including abuse or neglect. They may see things that traumatize them or that are hard to understand. They may feel unloved, hurt and frightened. Traumatic events, neglect and hurt feelings can impact them emotionally, developmentally and in other ways that last well into adulthood.
Parental Substance Abuse Statistics
The prevalence of parents or other adults living in homes with children and abusing substances is greater than most people realize. Around 5 million adults in the U.S. abuse drugs or alcohol and live with at least one child in the home. This means that more than 6 million children live with a parent or adult with substance use issues. Eighteen percent of those children are 11 or younger. The parents in these situations report having a more turbulent home life than those not abusing substances.
Impact of Parental Drug Abuse on Children
There are so many ways in which a parent’s drug abuse affects the young children in the home. The most prevalent is neglect. When a parent is focused on getting drugs, he or she has little time to spend on children and, when high, has little ability to focus on children. In addition to neglect, many parents abusing drugs may also abuse their children. Some kids live in fear of a parent being high or drunk and becoming angry and aggressive.
The effects of neglect, abuse and other kinds of trauma, such as witnessing a parent in a high or drunken state, cause other effects, which ripple outward into a child’s later life. The substance abuse of parents can ultimately lead to a child doing poorly in school, having no understanding of how to relate to other children and even developing post-traumatic stress disorder. As adults, the children of addicts carry these issues with them. They often end up in unsatisfactory or even abusive relationships, and they may even become substance abusers.
Addict parents and how they affect children is an important issue for everyone. Even if you have not experienced a parent with a substance abuse disorder, you likely know someone who has. These children suffer the consequences of their parents’ mistakes and they carry the scars well into adulthood. The impact of these adults’ choices are lasting and in some cases are devastating. When children of addicts grow up to become addicts themselves, they keep a dangerous and hopeless cycle going. It’s up to everyone to help end this cycle for good and to help those children of addicts who have been so badly affected by their parents’ illnesses.