Effects of Substance Abuse on Children
Many people who abuse alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs often separate themselves from the “harder” drug users and think their addiction is not a problem or is not hurting their family. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if a substance is legal or illegal. What matters is how the substance affects the person using or abusing it.
Someone with a substance abuse problem may have trouble keeping a job. They may have trouble controlling their temper or their emotions. They may be physically sick from their addiction or have legal issues such as drug charges or DUI’s.
It doesn’t really matter how often or how much someone uses alcohol or other drugs. What matters is how it affects them and the problems it creates.
Alcohol or drug addiction in the family is messy and hurts everyone. Often families don’t want to admit that there is a problem. They may try to hide it or lie about it. Some adults who are addicted may look like they are doing okay. Others may not. Every person and family is different.
It is estimated that 6 million children in this country live with at least one parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2003). Children living with an addicted or substance abusing parent or other adult are more likely to become drug addicted themselves. Alcohol and other drug addiction can cross generations and this cycle can be hard to break.
Some children may not talk about what is happening in their family, but living with an adult who is abusing alcohol or other drugs can effect a child’s behavior. You might see the child:
Be mean to others
Be quiet or keep to themselves
Act like a parent and try to take care of everyone
Get in trouble at school or have falling grades
Have nightmares or other sleeping problems
Not be able to focus or finish tasks
Miss many days of school or daycare
Believe the problems in the family are their fault
Worry about what will happen next
Hurt themselves or others
Be sad, angry or cry a lot
Feel bad about themselves
Often times, children are abused or not taken care of when adults in
the home are abusing substances. Living in this situation the child may:
See a lot of fighting in the home
Get hurt by being hit, slapped, punched, kicked or other things
Be sexually abused
Be hungry, dirty, left home alone or not watched by an adult
See or be a part of illegal things
Be confused about what they feel and how to act
There are many excellent and successful substance abuse treatment programs available. Some adults who need treatment think that it will be easy. They may believe that after their treatment is over, everything will be fine.
Recovery can be hard and in many ways will involve the entire family. It takes effort and causes changes in the whole family. Recovery from alcohol and other drug abuse is possible. The adult in recovery needs support from family, friends and the community. Recovery can be a lifelong process but there is hope that those in recovery can stay sober and enjoy a happy, healthy life.
For more information about substance abuse and families, contact Tarra Winters at 618-583-2116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the effects of methamphetamine on children, click here.
Changing Lives Foundation
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Illinois Department of Human Services
Illinois Helpline for Opioids and
Substance Abuse and Mental Health