A parent who uses alcohol or drugs to the point of causing problems in her child’s life is a child abuser. In fact, many states expanded the definition of child abuse to include households where there is drug and alcohol abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children suffer from a myriad of ill effects if a parent or caregiver abuses drugs or alcohol. Effects can be so devastating that the child can continue to feel the impact even if she no longer lives with that parent or caregiver or even if the parent stops the substance abuse, according to the Center on Addiction and the Family.
Children from families with drug abuse problems are at greater risk for developing psychiatric and social disorders, according to the Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy website. Common problems these children have are depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor functioning and poor relationships. When these children grow up, they tend to stop school earlier than their peers do, and they often have marital difficulties.
Chaotic Family Life
If a parent or caregiver abuses drugs or alcohol, family life is frequently unpredictable and chaotic. Parents can show love to their children one minute and then suddenly withdraw or behave in a crazy manner the next, according to the Center on Addiction and the Family. This can be confusing for children who do not realize that drugs and alcohol cause this behavior.
Children who live with a drug or alcohol abuser may be the victims of violence or incest. Sexual abuse is more common in dysfunctional families where roles are blurred, according to the Center on Addiction and the Family. Even if children are not the victims of violence, they are likely to witness violence in the home. Children may suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, characterized by sleep problems, anxiety, flashbacks and depression, as a result.
Parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are likely to lose their job. The family may lose their possessions, such as their car or home as a result. Children may live in poverty.
Children of parents who abuse drugs have a greater likelihood of abusing drugs, too. Children who have parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are four times more likely to become addicts themselves if they start using these substances, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
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