Parental Substance Abuse on Children: Effects Inside the Household

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Substance abuse is a growing concern among households in the United States. It creates a dangerous culture that incites harmful consequences, not just to the people who use these substances, but also to people who are not directly involved. Contrary to popular belief, someone’s physical and mental health concerns are not the sole risks for drug and alcohol addiction. As people who abuse substances struggle to control their habits and lifestyle, they can commit specific actions and decisions that may physically or even emotionally harm the people around them. 

For example, immediate families, particularly children and members of the sober community may experience domestic violence and emotional manipulation. Stemming from drug addiction, an individual may experience extreme behavioral changes brought about by physical and biochemical changes in the brain. When viewing the bigger picture, children in ordinary American homes are the ones genuinely suffering when parents display changes in attitude and beliefs that amplify neglectfulness. The lack of care that they may experience can further progress, not just into the deterioration of the child’s overall health, but also into trauma or full-blown abuse, which children will bring with them as they grow up.


Basics of Substance Abuse

Before diving into parental substance abuse, it is essential to break down the technical aspect of drug and alcohol addiction. These are commonly asked questions:

  • What are SUDs? SUDs, commonly known as substance use disorders, impact an individual’s brain and behavior. In the long run, it leads to drug dependency and the loss of control of daily functions, negatively affecting living conditions.
  • What does substance abuse include? Substance abuse includes multiple risks in terms of individual health and community influence. It can manifest in physical, emotional, behavioral, and psychological changes. When not treated with urgency, dangerous habits can take over the life of the individual.
  • What is drug abuse and its types? We see drug abuse in various forms. It is not restricted to illicit and street drugs. Instead, it can also form from the continuous use of alcohol and prescription drugs, particularly pain killers.
  • What are the major causes of drug abuse? Drug abuse can be caused by unfavorable circumstances in life, such as homelessness and job loss. However, it can also be influenced by nature, particularly genetics. And as stated in this article, influence from parents is also a significant cause of drug abuse.

Parental Drug Use on Child Development


  • How does parental drug use affect child development?

Parental substance abuse is the long-term misuse of prescription or illicit drugs, and alcohol by a parent or a carer. This kind of abuse includes both parents and carers who are suffering from alcoholism and drug dependency. For the most part, they consume harmful amounts of alcohol most of the time, while being less accountable towards familial responsibilities and obligations at home. Like most people who abuse substances, parents may exhibit drug dependency, which can bring emotional indifference. They become too occupied with the need to intake more of the substance used.


  • How does exposure to substance use or misuse affect child development?

The development of children is greatly affected by parental drug use. For an obvious reason, young individuals look up to their parents for guidance in many ways. As a result, the child adopts certain behaviors and beliefs that their parents reflect in everyday living. To make things simple, children who have parents who abuse substances are more likely to fall victim to alcoholism and drug use than a kid in a caring environment. They never had someone to assist them in distinguishing right from wrong. Additionally, the lack of care brought by parental drug use may affect essential aspects of the child’s life, such as school performance, the formation of interests, and relationships with friends and relatives.

Numerous scientific studies have documented the correlation between parents’ addictive substances and negative child development. As these two aspects are closely tied, the growing concern of alcoholism and drug use in the United States becomes more harmful to communities.



How does alcohol affect parenting?

The use of alcohol is not a totally negative facet within the family. It is a beverage that most Americans enjoy, but responsible drinking is necessary to maintain proper behaviors. In some way, alcohol affects parenting, as children emulate their parents’ actions, and role models shape children’s future activities. Alcohol consumption within the family only becomes unfavorable, especially during parenting, when it transforms into alcohol addiction or alcoholism. 


How does family influence drug use?

The connection between addiction and adverse outcomes among children comes from behavioral changes in people who abuse substances. As most people perceive alcohol and drugs as helpful under challenging situations, parents consume a greater quantity of substances without realizing how it can affect their families. This tendency results in a significant decrease in physical inhibitions and an emotional attack increase in intoxication level. The parent’s drunken state draws out negative behavior and tends to act indifferent towards the family’s needs. Ultimately, tolerating these behaviors can manifest drug use among members in both the present and near future.

The presence of drug and alcohol addiction in the family, particularly among parents, can result in physical, mental, and emotional harm.


Physical Dangers of Substance Abuse to Children


The physical danger of parental addiction can even start from before birth. Suppose a mother is drinking or using drugs while pregnant. In that case, she can severely harm her child, resulting in physical defects, such as delayed growth, organ malformation, or mental disorders, such as attachment or attention disorders. Parents can also lose their sense of morality and step past the appropriate boundaries instead of behavioral changes. When angered or upset under the influence, they can lash out and cause verbal, physical, or sexual abuse to the child.

Surprisingly, the physical dangers of substance abuse to children can stem from the familial aspect of finances and resources.

  • What are the financial effects of drugs? Financial struggle in the family will most likely occur because of substance addiction, as drugs and alcohol will drain funds for food and maintenance. The family will experience actual physical harm, as financial instability can ultimately turn into hunger and homelessness. 


Mental Harm from Drug Addiction

Families affected by addiction are more likely to cultivate chaos, unclear communication, and insecurity. Thus, children may be less likely to do well in school, which would blur the possibility of a bright future. If children do not have anyone to support their hard work and efforts, they become less willing to get good grades. Due to the lack of a morally “good” role model in their life, children may believe that there is no reason to respect authority, or the only way to cope with stress is through the use of substances. When these mental harms progress further, children may develop worse behavior problems as well.


Emotional Damage to Children’s Wellbeing 

Self-worth is one of the most affected aspects when it comes to parents’ neglect of their children. Ignored emotional needs in children can eventually lead to social disconnection. As a result, they form trust and dependency issues, and their ability to empathize becomes limited. Furthermore, they may suffer from depression and other mental health illnesses due to a lack of care and family love.

The family’s role in creating a healthy environment is essential to prevent these kinds of harm to children, who can become more outstanding people in the future.


Is there an addictive gene?

Yes, there is a gene that constitutes the probability of an individual falling into substance addiction. However, its activity and influence in physical manifestations will only manifest when the environment where the growing person is nurtured is not healthy.

According to recent publications, genetics account for 70 percent of a person’s tendency to develop an addiction in any form.  However, healthy and caring familial environments can prevent this development by forming productive and preventive habits. With open conversations and proper education, growing individuals can avoid the harm posed by illicit drugs and alcohol. We see the family’s role becomes important in prevention, and rehabilitation becomes necessary in healing.

Community Aspect of Substance Abuse


  • What are the effects of drugs in the community?

As the family is the basic unit of a community, drug and alcohol influence can harm other people. Aside from the proven increased likeliness of crimes among addicted individuals, other people are more likely to consume drugs when there are others around them who abuse drugs routinely. A single household can create a dangerous culture of alcoholism and negative child development, as everything starts in a local context.

  • What does NSPCC mean?

Luckily, preventive measures aim to address harm to children exposed to parental substance abuse, as an example. The NSPCC, or National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, is an organization that advocates for child protection and proper parenting.

  • What do Children’s Services do?

These organizations, particularly those focusing on children’s services, provide psychological and physical help to kids previously affected by substance abuse. They have programs where they take care of the child during the recovery journey of addicted parents. Rehabilitation is still possible for individuals who have kids.


What is the role of family in prevention of drug abuse?


People can prevent harm from substance abuse addiction by setting a good example in a family. By being clear off from dangerous and illicit substances, children may learn the importance of being productive and sober every day. Educating our children regarding its dangers to oneself and one’s family can be done through healthy conversations and discussions on physical, mental, and emotional health. When a parent has already fallen into substance abuse disorder, it is never too late to take a step towards recovery.

We might not have been ideal in creating a nurturing environment for our children, but having the effort now to change can go a long way for their future.

Regardless of substance addiction severity, treatment plans, which can help family reintegration, are provided by a trusted drug rehab center. Evidence-based methods ensure that behavioral symptoms are well-addressed, alongside the actual drug dependence, allowing more care of the family. There will always be hope for ourselves and our loved ones, another shot for a productive life.

At Restore Health and Wellness, our drug rehab in Simi Valley, CA, provides addiction treatment programs and behavioral therapies designed for specific addiction types. We have treatment plans that target specific behavioral changes, addressing these drug addiction treatment matters to get ourselves back. Let us discuss how we can start you or your loved one’s journey to recovery.

Give us a call at (818) 405-8656 or visit our drug rehab center in Thousand Oaks, CA at 6918 Owensmouth Ave Canoga Park, CA 91303. 


Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. This blog aims not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case to case basis.

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