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How Parental Addiction and Its Effects on Children Has Changed Over the Generations

November 19, 2018 - - 0 Comments

Addicted Parent

All children need parents who are healthy, loving, and able to help them grow into healthy and capable adults. Unfortunately, addiction to various substances has become a bigger problem over the last few generations and has impacted how well children can receive this care. Dependency on drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, opioids, alcohol, and even prescription medications like Xanax are increasing and show no signs of slowing.

The impact that this dependency has on children is nearly impossible to grasp fully. A growing number of children are growing up watching their parents go through 12 step programs and detox and experiencing PTSD when they should be learning more about the demands of life. And while treatment and recovery are necessary for addicted parents, the trauma their children experience will cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems for the rest of their lives.

And in most circumstances, addicted parents are going to be less capable of handling the demands of their parental responsibilities. Unfortunately, these issues could contribute to a cycle of generational drug abuse that is likely to get worse instead of better. Thankfully, treatment methods like dual-diagnosis may be able to help with this issue in a constructive and healing way.



Parental Addiction is a Higher Risk Now

When you were young, you probably didn’t worry at all about the impact of opioids, opiates, heroin, or methamphetamine on your parent or your life. That’s probably true of a large number of people around the world. Back then, the danger of addiction to these substances was mostly confined to specific segments of the population and hadn’t quite become as severe as it is today.

Parental AddictionUnfortunately, your child’s generation is dealing with epidemic-levels of substance abuse in parents. It is estimated that millions of children live in homes with a parent who is addicted to some substance. And we’re not talking nicotine or caffeine but hard substances like heroin, benzodiazepines, and even opiates. Alcohol abuse is probably the most common but by far not the only problem children are facing.

The reasons for these changes are numerous. For example, experimentation with drugs in the 60s, 70s, and 80s made substance abuse more common in a variety of homes. As a result, children of these individuals were exposed to substances at a younger age and are now more likely to abuse. However, the widespread persistence of certain types of drugs also contributes to this problem.

For example, the opioid and opiate addiction epidemic is fueled not so much by illegal substances but by legal medications. A growing number of parents in your generation are getting addicted to painkillers after surgery and continuing to use them after they don’t need them anymore. And in many cases, they are then transitioning to using illegal substances to replace legal ones.

This skyrocketing rate of addiction has led to a staggering statistic that is almost impossible to grasp. While addiction rates in parents in earlier generations are not known, it is estimated that at least one in every five (20 percent) up to as many as one in every four (25 percent) of children live in a home with at least one parent or caregiver who is addicted to a substance.

To put this statistic into perspective, imagine standing in a room with all the children in your child’s class and all of their parents. Let’s say that your child has 200 children in their class who have two parents each. That’s 400 parents and, according to these statistics, 80-100 of them would be addicted to a substance.

And in many cases, these parents are hiding their addiction quite well and adapting to the demands of parenting while abusing drugs. Therefore, you could look across the room in this imaginary situation and not know who is addicted to heroin, alcohol, or even benzos. They could be the parent of your child’s best friend, somebody you trust your child with every other weekend or somebody whom you hang out with regularly.

Even worse, a growing number of children are being born from the wombs of mothers who abused drugs while their child was developing. For example, a recent statistic found that a child was born from an opioid-abusing mother every 25 minutes. And in many cases, these children were addicted to opiates after birth and experienced extreme withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these children even had many developmental issues that complicated their growth and education.

But even when parents develop addictions after a child’s birth and don’t affect their physical development in the womb, this addiction may still impact how well their child can mature and grow. Unfortunately, this circumstance may lead to a variety of issues that may make a child more likely to follow in their parent’s footsteps and become addicted to various substances.



Addicted Parents May Impact Their Child’s Development

As you can imagine, children who grow up in a home with addicted parents will suffer from developmental issues. These problems are, more or less, the same as they have always been but more regular and potent than ever. For example, millions of children grew up in homes with alcohol-addicted parents in past generations. However, newer generations are growing up with opioids and opiates abuse in their parents as a daily issue.

Parental AddictionAnd this problem is only getting worse. For example, in the study “Understanding the Diverse Needs of Children Whose Parents Abuse Substances,” various issues affecting children of addicted parents were carefully studied. It was found that children with actively-addicted parents suffered from lower IQ scores, poorer intellectual development, and more difficulties with memory and attention span. These problems occurred for a variety of reasons, including a lack of proper parental care.

The same study also found that children of actively-addicted parents suffered from higher rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, and PTSD than children who did not have addicted parents. Before examining this point further, it is essential to remind the reader that active addiction refers to somebody who regularly abuses a substance on a daily basis. A parent who has a nightcap before bed or who drinks with friends on the weekend is not actively addicted.

In fact, this study found that children of people who only socially or occasionally used alcohol or other substances experienced little of the adverse effects experienced in children of actively-addicted parents. It seems that the continual abuse of substances – and in particular the ways it degraded a person’s parental skills – were the main contributing factors for developmental issues.

However, that doesn’t mean that a parent’s occasional use of various substances may not affect a child. In fact, even a casual drink or shot of heroin could affect a parent and cause changes to their parenting styles that could contribute to the weaker development of their child. And these problems are the same as they’ve always been in past generations but, as expected, are just getting worse.



Addiction Changes Parenting Styles

The book “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy” covered familial addiction in the chapter “Impact of Substance Abuse on Families.” In this chapter, the authors found that parents with addictions often had altered parenting styles when they were using drugs than when they weren’t. For example, actively-addicted parents were often more negative, complained more often, and were harsher on their children when using drugs than when they were not.

As a result, their corrective behaviors were often inconsistent in a way that frustrated or confused their children. And while their children were often intelligent enough to read their parent’s moods and drug use, these erratic correction methods often caused depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems in their children.

That’s because the parent is placing an unreasonable burden on their child. Having to adapt to an addicted parent’s whims and abuse patterns is very hard on a child who is just maturing. Even worse, such behaviors often force a child to adapt when their parents need help and care during their phases or patterns of drug abuse.



Addiction Places an Unfortunate Care Burden on the Child

Parental AddictionOne addiction factor that is very different from past generations is the care burden placed on the children of addicted parents. This role reversal finds these youngsters taking care of their parents instead of the parents taking care of them. For example, a child of an addicted parent may end up having to clean up after a heroin-addicted parent who is so high that they soil themselves in bed.

Sadly, children in this situation often have to become the adult in this relationship and may take on part-time jobs, do all the chores in the house, raise their younger siblings, or even deal with their parent’s suicidal or depressed thoughts due to their drug dependency. This care burden is one that is not fair to place on a child. All children should have the chance to experience fun and joyful youth without having to take care of their parents.

Even worse, this issue forces a child to take on difficult emotions that they may not be able to handle at such a young age. As a result, they may end up experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues. Unfortunately, this means that they may fall into the same pattern of behavior as their parents, though many children in this situation learn from their parent’s mistakes and stay away from drugs.



Parental Addiction Can Also Trigger Child Addiction

Sadly, the avoidance of drugs in children of addicted parents may be the exception and not the rule. They outlined various risks and problems that affected children of parents who were addicted to substances.

For example, these children often behaved or performed poorly in school, experienced severe emotional and behavioral issues, were more likely to be physically, verbally, or sexually abused, and were more likely to experiment with drugs at an early age. Even worse, these children were more likely to fall into addictive patterns of behavior as they emulated their parents.

After all, the vast majority of a person’s behavior and attitudes are influenced by those of their parents. And if their parents abuse drugs regularly, children come to think of these behaviors as normal or acceptable. Unfortunately, this means they are more likely to act like their parents and fall down the path of addiction. That said, parents and children can receive high-quality help from treatment specialists in a dual-diagnosis setting and overcome addiction or the risk of drug abuse.



How Dual-Diagnosis Can Help Both Parents and Children

Parental AddictionDual-diagnosis provides parents and their children with the best chance to beat a dependency on drugs. No other rehab method provides such a complete package for recovery. Dual-diagnosis works on the holistic concept stating that the treatment of mental health problems, like trauma, anxiety, and PTSD are just as necessary to treat as the physical elements of drug dependency.

For example, parents going through this recovery and rehab method will go through detox and the 12 step program to beat their physical need for drugs. However, they can then get mental health treatment methods – including individual and family counseling – to learn more about where their addiction begins, and the mental health and depression triggers that cause it to grow worse.

Just as importantly, parents can get treatment with their children as a way of assessing the impact that their addiction has on their child’s life. Getting a child to understand that their parent’s behavior is not their fault makes it easier for a child to recover. Even better, it can mend emotional issues between parents and children and make it easier for both to overcome addictive behaviors for good.



Give Your Child the Chance to Defeat Addiction

As you can see, the progression of drug addiction in parents over the last few generations has gotten more devastating to future generations of children. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a solution to reverse this trend beyond parents overcoming dependency early and helping their children avoid the adverse effects of this problem.

So if you or somebody who you love is a parent who abuses drugs, you need to contact us right away. Our dual-diagnosis professionals are skilled in understanding the dangers of drug abuse and can help you through this treatment pattern with skill and care. They can also provide your children with the help that they need to avoid falling into addiction later in life. You and your children deserve a happier and drug-free life.

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