Parental Substance Abuse and Its Effects on Children

Individuals with substance abuse issues often think that they do not have a problem. In the rare instance they acknowledge that a problem exists, they are usually convinced that the problem is theirs alone. They fail to realize that their issues also affect other people, their family in particular. As for parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, it is their children who suffer from the consequences. The consequences for children are emotional, behavioral and physical in nature.

Emotional Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children

Children of parents who have substance abuse issues deal with considerable emotional baggage. Many are overcome with fear—fear that the parent may hurt them or die while under the influence. The children also feel shame and anger: they are ashamed of their parent’s behavior and they are mad that he or she cannot just stop drinking or doing drugs. Guilt is another emotion children have to deal with—they hold themselves responsible for their parent’s bad behavior. They think that if only they were good enough, their parent would not drink or do drugs. Moreover, having substance abusive parents result in insecurity, ambivalence, conflicts with sexuality, and mistrust in adults.

Behavioral Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children

Parental substance abuse also has a negative impact on the behavior of children. Those with substance abusive parents are more likely to have aggressive and self-destructive behaviors (such as suicide). In some cases, children are caught up in the cycle of abuse; they become substance abusive like their parents.

The most apparent behavioral effects associated with parental substance abuse are related to school performance. Kids who live in difficult domestic environments cannot focus on their academic responsibilities because of their problems at home, and they are more likely to have low grades and drop out of school.

Physical Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children

Children with parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are most vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, as well as neglect. Parents are so consumed by their destructive habit that they fail to fulfill their parental responsibilities and their neglect in turn often leads to harm or injury. In fact, many children die each year due to parental neglect.

Drug and alcohol problems of parents also contribute to health and mental issues of children. Kids suffer stress-related problems such as migraines, asthma, headaches and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as eating, anxiety and depressive disorders.

If you have a substance abusive parent, do not hesitate to contact us. We are a substance abuse helpline that offers free information, support and treatment help. We are open 24/7, so you can speak to our licensed counselors any time.


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