As the drug and alcohol abuse and addiction crisis and issue has become more serious, so has become more prevalent the need for addressing the children of parents who abuse drugs and alcohol.  The statistics are pretty concerning to say the least, weighing in that about sixty percent of addicts have children and about forty percent of addicts have children who are under the age of 20.  Children in households with parental substance abuse are at a much, much higher risk to develop mental health and behavioral problems of their own, according to a new and pretty concerning study slated for publication later this month.

Sadly, drug and alcohol abuse affects far more than just those who abuse the drugs themselves, and with the vast majority of this nation’s addicts being between the ages of 18 and 30, there are a lot of children who have addicts for parents.  This is perhaps the worst crime that an addict can commit, and that is to try to raise a child while being addicted to drugs and alcohol.  It is a cruel and an unfair thing to do to say the least as odds are that person will become addicted to drugs and alcohol too.  Studies show that a child who is raised by addicted parents will be four to ten times more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol themselves, depending on how prevalent and common the parents’ addiction problem is in that child’s life.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

“An estimated one in five U.S. children grows up in a home in which someone misuses alcohol or has a substance use disorder.  Whether from the toxic effects of exposure to these substances themselves or from the neglect of their basic needs by parents or caretakers struggling with substance use disorders, children in these households commonly experience developmental and educational delays and, later on, are at higher risk for mental health and behavioral problems.  They also are more likely than their peers to have substance use disorders themselves later in life.  The numbers on it are quite astonishing.  In fact, children who have one substance abusing parent are four times as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol in the future as children who don’t have any parents who abuse substances.  Furthermore, children who have two substance abusing parents, (this is often the case), are no less than ten times as likely to abuse substances than children who have sober parents are.

The report went on to talk about just how real the numbers are on children who are lined up like an assembly line, ready and waiting to receive addiction problems of their own. Recent research done by the Department of Health indicates that:

“22,000 babies in the U.S. were diagnosed in 2012 with neonatal abstinence syndrome that can result from prenatal exposure to opioids. A separate study indicated more than a quarter of expectant mothers were prescribed opioids during their pregnancies.  The connection here is obvious.”

Utilizing Pediatricians to Fight Back

This is exactly why pediatricians need to step in and do something about this because our nation’s pediatricians are the specific healthcare providers who are most likely to encounter families with young children who may be affected by substance use.  It is these individuals who are in the unique position to actually have the opportunity to help break multigenerational cycles of abuse amongst families who have parents in them who abuse drugs and alcohol.  The key to utilizing the potential that pediatricians have to offer is that by being informed about the effects of parental drug use on children, they can intervene when necessary and they can actually do something about this rising epidemic that the CDC has labeled:

“The first time drug and alcohol addiction in the United States has ever risen out of a crisis and into an epidemic.

The nitty-gritty on the transference of substance abuse is pretty cruel.  Of course, there is always the truth that one must be struggling with problems of one’s own to really take on a drug and alcohol addiction problem of serious proportions.  However, simply having a parent who abuses drugs and alcohol can often push one over the edge and bring about this very occurrence.  According to a ChildWelfare.gov publication:

“Children and young adults of parents who use or abuse substances and have parenting difficulties have an increased chance of experiencing a variety of negative outcomes.  Poor cognitive, social, and emotional development, depression, anxiety, and other trauma and mental health symptoms, physical and health issues, and substance abuse problems are all just a few of the results in kids who have substance abusers for parents.”

More than ten percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study.  Studies also show that if a child does live with a parent who has a drinking problem then he or she is no less than four times more likely to abuse alcohol and to get an alcohol habit later on in life because of it.

Pediatricians should be utilized and informed on how to keep an eye out for kids who might have substance abusers for parents.  This is a concerning issue to say the least, but it can be cut down a notch if American pediatricians are willing to play a part in correcting it.  After all, a child is like a young plant. You would not want to water a young plant with poisoned water, or the young plant would grow twisted and deformed, or it would die.  This is exactly what happens when parents abuse drugs and alcohol.  With enough work and effort though, this issue can become a thing of the past soon enough.

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