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Addiction has reared its ugly head as a serious issue in the United States. This nation suffers with an addiction problem disproportionate to our population. We make up only five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume eighty percent of the world’s annual supply of prescription drugs and thirty percent of the world’s supply of heroin. To make matter worse, the average age for an American addict is between eighteen and thirty, the same age of an average American parent of a young child.
Statistically speaking, of the most densely populated age demographic for addiction (eighteen to thirty) there is a sixty percent chance that addicts in that age bracket will have at least one young child. Addiction for one is bad enough, but for an innocent child to be under the care of an addict is doubly criminal at least.
A Highly Prevalent Crisis
The sad truth is that drug and alcohol addiction and substance is a lot more common amongst American parents than we’d like to admit. When we say parents, we don’t mean parents in general. Anyone who’s ever had a kid before is a parent, even if their kids are now grown up. No, when we say addicted parents, we mean parents of young children or adolescent children. This is the truly disturbing yet very prevalent issue as the effect that parents who abuse drugs and alcohol have on their kids borders on the criminal. Take a look at these statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) for some more information on it:
• More than ten percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 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 than a child who grows up with sober parents does.
• Among children who admitted that they had abused prescription medications, one in five, (20 percent of them) has done so before the age of fourteen. More than a quarter of teens, (27 percent to be exact) mistakenly believe that misusing and abusing prescription drugs is safer than using street drugs, when the truth is that they are in a lot of ways even more dangerous and actually are a lot more lethal. Many teens get this belief and this habit from their parents. In fact, whole families have been known to be abusing these drugs and thinking that it was perfectly alright. Teens will mimic what their parents do, and when the parents pop pills, so do the teens. The result? Now more teens die from abusing prescription drugs than teens who die from street drugs.
• Almost one in four teens, (23 percent of them to be exact) say their parents do not care all that much if they are caught using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, compared to getting caught with “street drugs”. Alarmingly enough, parents often recommend that their teens use such drugs as stress relievers! All of a sudden prescription drugs are the stand in for proper parenting apparently. When this is investigated, it is found that most parents who are okay with this are also pill abusers themselves.
• 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 an addict can commit, and that is to try to raise a child while being addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s going to have a negative impact, guaranteed. It is a cruel and an unfair thing to do to a child as the odds are that child will grow up to 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 and how much the child is exposed to it.
Ending This Problem for Good
How unacceptable is this? Abusing drugs and alcohol and ruining one’s own life is bad enough, but to drag the life of a helpless child into the mix is absolutely criminal. Yet it is done and it is done over and over again in the United States.
How can this problem be addressed? There really is only one way, and that is to effectively rehabilitate those parents who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. To this day, inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment centers, detox facilities, rehab programs and recovery organizations stand as the number one best chance that any addict, whether a parent of a young child or not, stands at besting addiction once and for all. This and nothing else will suffice in addressing this epidemic.
Most parents of young children will not want to go to rehab. They will fight it and say that they have to stay and take care of their children. Ask them, really ask them, “How can you be a good parent and truly, ‘take care of your children’, if you are actively abusing drugs and alcohol?” Really make that clear to them. Intervene if necessary. Take the child or children away if necessary. Whatever it takes, get that person to agree to go to rehab. He or she will thank you in the long run and the children will have a chance at a normal, caring, loved, and nourished childhood as a result of it.