Exposing Children to Drugs and Alcohol

substance use disorder

Parents who expose their children to heavy alcohol or drug use put them at a number of risks. While there is no way of telling which children will experience problems later in life due to their parents’ behavior, it practically goes without saying that many children will develop unhealthy relationships with mind altering substances based on what they see their parents do. On top of the potential risks of teenage drug and alcohol use, new research shows that the children of alcoholics and addicts are at risk of other issues as well.

Experts at Beth Israel Medical Center (BIDMC) and Boston Children’s Hospital published a report which indicates that children whose parents use alcohol or drugs have a heightened risk of medical and behavioral problems, PsychCentral reports. The report can be found in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Association of Pediatrics.

The authors of the report point out that around 20 percent of children in the United States grow up in a home with someone misusing drugs and/or alcohol, or has a substance use disorder. Given such a high rate of exposure, it is crucial that pediatricians increase their efforts in identifying children at risk, so they can help their parents get the treatment they need. Failure to do so could spell disaster for the child later in life. Children exposed to parental substance abuse were found to be much more likely to develop mental health and behavioral problems later in life, according to the article. They were also found to be at a greater risk than their peers to experience a substance use disorder themselves.

“Alcohol misuse and substance use are exceedingly common in this country, and parents’ or caregivers’ substance use may affect their ability to consistently prioritize their children’s basic physical and emotional needs and provide a safe, nurturing environment,” said Vincent C. Smith, M.D., M.P.H., who co-authored the report. “Because these children are at risk of suffering physical or emotional harm, pediatricians need to know how to assess a child’s risk and to support the family to get the help they need.” 

If you are a parent and are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, please contact Cottonwood Tucson. We can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery. Similarly, if your teenage daughter is herself using substances or experiencing mental health issues, our Sweetwater Adolescent Girls Program is equipped to help her as well.

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